It seems that God might be partial to the desolate places. After all, great men of God were led there; Moses. Joseph. John the Baptist. And even Jesus. They were all led into the wilderness for testing and preparation to be used mightily by God.
But before we start to celebrate the outcome of the desolate places, we have to endure the journey there first. And that is the hard part. In each account of these men and their journey through the wilderness, we have a vantage point; we can see the end from the beginning. But we must remember, they did not. They had no way of knowing, except for maybe Jesus, how long they were going to be there and what they would encounter. Or even if they would survive it.
And so, this is our experience. God knows the end but we don’t. And what was required of them in the wilderness is what is also required of us….faith! Trust! What is it that helped Joseph through being abandoned by his brothers, sold into slavery and imprisoned? Trust. What held Moses as he walked the children of Israel through the wilderness for 4o years. Trust.
I mean, think about it: You obey God to deliver millions of people from Egypt and all they do is complain and want to kill you. Then when they can’t trust God to enter the promised land and He forbids them from entering, who is it that God appoints over them to wander in the wilderness for all those years. Moses! He was obedient, He was faithful and he was appointed to a desolate place. The Bible says there was no man more humble than Moses!
The desolate places teach us humility, dependence on God and the things that truly are most important to God. Have you ever asked, “what things mean the most to you, God”? Why don’t you and see what He shows you?
The desolate places can feel like punishment because you may feel God is a million miles away, nothing ever goes right for you, everyone is against you and all your opportunities have passed you by.
John the Baptist was a simple man. An ordained man from his conception. He was called to preach in the wilderness. Not in the spotlight in the middle of town, but the desolate places outside the city. And Jesus said of him in Matthew 11:11,
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist;
And his greatness was forged in the wilderness. As was Jesus. He was first confirmed and affirmed by his Father in Matthew 3:17,
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Then the Bible says, he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4). During that time in the wilderness (40 days- One month and ten days), He overcame the temptations and returned in the power of the Spirit (verse 14) and began his public ministry. Notice in verses one and two of Luke 4, it was at the END of the 40 days that Satan came to Him to tempt Him. I wonder what the days before that looked like? The Bible doesn’t say. Curious.
So what do your days look like at this season in your life? Are you traveling in some desolate places? Are you in a wilderness of hunger and thirst? Are you being tempted? Does it feel like your strength is all but gone? Are there those there with you that like Moses, want to kill you or compel you to go back into the bondage you’ve come out of? Does God feel distant and silent? If so, the wilderness is meant to be this kind of place. Unforgiving. Uncertain. These are the things that compel us to cling to God with all our strength.
Desolate places serve a purpose and most times we don’t know what that purpose is while we are in it, but afterward, we can see the hand of God all over it. Of course, that’s not much consolation while we are there, but trust and faith are the companions that lead us to the other side. And these companions grow stronger and stronger as we walk along, taking one more step.
That seems to be my mantra this year: Just take one more step. All God is asking is that we keep walking. And if you can’t walk, crawl and if you can’t crawl, scoot. But whatever you do, don’t stop moving forward. And eventually, you will walk out of the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit fully equipped to do the work God has fashioned you for!
1 Peter 5:10
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
Let Christ be glorified in all!