That was my question. “Why this waste?”
I looked into my father’s face with the tears flooding down mine.
He wanted to give me an answer. (He didn’t have one.) At least not an easy one. Instead he tenderly responded, “…you are not the same person you were before all this began.”
(At the time that did little to assuage my anger and frustration.)
Why does God choose the wilderness for us?
My short answer: I don’t know.
But my Bible says it’s a common classroom for the LORD.
It also says His deserts have graduated some distinguished Bible heros. Mega-men such as: Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, the apostles Paul and John—not to mention the Lord Jesus Himself, who went straight into the wilderness after being baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit.
All of the above did a tenure in Desert-U.
I know The Church is fond of comparing “the wilderness” to our unredeemed and sinful state, but if that is so, then the above is even more unfathomable, isn’t it?
Nope. Sorry. I think there’s just got to be more to it.
Personally I believe “the wilderness” affords God a place of exclusive one-on-one time with us; face-to-face and heart-to-heart. No distractions. Little interruption. And above all, a pure and haunting desperation to hear from Him.
There’s nothing quite like the desert to boil life down to the pure essentials!
- Sand and heat.
- Water and food.
- Shelter and protection.
- Life at its purest and most basic.
It seems a “no-brainer” to me. The basics (and not much else) is a great and very effective attention-getter!
On me, it works every single time.
It seems, in spite of myself—I learn.
Nowadays, The LORD may not choose a literal desert for us, but by my own experience I can attest to the truth that God has no diffiuclty in clearing the chess board of my life, removing all distractions, and bringing me up-close and personal with the King Himself.
I find when He desires to take me into an intense time of teaching, or graphic instruction, the desert experience seems to be His MO.
God certainly does know how to turn up the heat.
When you are going through a time of great suffering (for whatever the reason) you do feel like your life has been turned into a hot and howling wasteland.
A difficult “wilderness” might be my health, my finances, my relationships, or just my own heart’s lonely journey, but when God wants to speak to me, mono-a-mono, I find He prefers a desert of some kind ’cause not all necessary skills can be learned via sweet harp music on “flowery beds of ease,” to quote Isaac Watts. Unpopular, I know, but some things can only be learned via sorrow and suffering.
I say all of this for one reason: to encourage you.
I know. I can almost hear your, “Thanks a lot!” but here’s what I want you to believe.
The wilderness is not necessarily a punitive place of punishment. Lots of times it feels like it is. (Yeah, I know.) But perhaps it is something else. Perhaps it is for something good.
If you are going through a wilderness time know this for certain…
You are in exalted company number one; and two God is planning on using you and your experience or He wouldn’t be taking such great pains with you! You are a diamond in the rough and God is polishing His priceless gemstone… YOU.
(So be encouraged.)
The word of God says, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” [Isa. 62:3]
Have you ever seen a diamond in the rough?
Not much to look at. Just an old brown rock. Okay, so right now you may feel like a throwaway. Not much to look at, either. All of your life looks to you like you are drowning in an ocean of sand, but trust me, that is miles from the real truth! God is up to something with you. Something good.
Don’t give in. Don’t despair. And don’t give up. God has a plan.
The following resources have really helped a lot while walking through my own wilderness journeys:
School of Suffering
“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).
This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement. To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life–to be able to say in such a school of discipline, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?’–this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point. Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer. –Dr. Charles Parkhurst (emphasis mine)
To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him.
We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.
The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.
The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.
“Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.”
The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.
(from Streams in the Desert, by L. B. Cowman, Zondervan)
P. S. For more help, I also encourage you to read Jamie Buckingham’s book: A Way Through The Wilderness