I don’t know about you, but I like comfort thank you very much. I prefer to have things go just the way I expect them to. Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a carefully planned adventure from time to time. The kind where I know exactly when on my itinerary the cliff jumping is scheduled.
I’m not opposed to surprises, either. I like surprises. As in well-executed surprise parties. Not the kind of surprises that truly catch me off guard, making me wish that I could take the wheel and steer this keeling ship back home.
So, when I get to the part in Exodus where the children of Israel start complaining about having to wander in the wilderness without food and water, I understand their discomfort. I think that if I’d been part of that disgruntled caravan, I would have lifted my hands in the air and shouted out my agreement with a loud “Amen!” Then, I probably would have folded my arms across my chest, turned my back to the wilderness, and joined their chorus of complaints.
Yes. I would have turned my back to the wilderness. Because really? Who wants to deal with that?
Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time in the wilderness knows that it can be an unpredictable place. Taken at face value, spending time engaged in wilderness living seems daunting at best. The wilderness is desolate and barren and lonely and hot and dry and vast. I’d rather just avoid it, if you don’t mind.
I think those children of Israel must have felt the same way. They had cried out to God for some help and – in His miraculous way – God answered and delivered them. And, although it didn’t seem like it in the moments His children complained against Him, God truly did have a plan for them. It was a good plan. Really. It just wasn’t their plan.
And it definitely wasn’t comfortable.
So there they were. Kicking up dust and pitching a fit, trying their level best to avoid anything that remotely resembled anything wilderness-ish. God heard their fussing and decided to bless them in spite of themselves, because He loved them so very much. God told Moses and Moses told Aaron and Aaron told the people that food was on its way.
Aaron was telling the crowd about the meal that God was sending, and they must have gotten pretty excited about the news and started to look around for where the table was being set. I imagine myself in that crowd, craning my neck and squinting my eyes to peer over Aaron’s shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fruit bowl being brought out from God’s own kitchen. I hear whispers behind me – from the direction of the wilderness.
Maybe there’s a bit of pushing and a tiny bit of shoving as people all around me start to turn around to face the wilderness against which we’d all firmly set our backs – certain that the wilderness held nothing good for us. I think I would have slowly turned around and held my hand up to keep the sand from blowing into my eyes. I probably would have draped a corner of my tunic over my mouth and nose as I gazed over the heads of those who had turned with me to face the very same wilderness we’d been trying so hard to avoid.
When my eyes could focus and I finally caught a glimpse of what the wilderness had in store, I guess I would have stood in silent wonder. In fact, I think perhaps a holy hush fell over that entire crowd. Because – according to Exodus – it wasn’t until the people turned to face the wilderness that they saw the glory of God.
Imagine that! The glory of God! Right in the middle of the wilderness!
What do you do when you find yourself facing your very own wilderness experience?
(You can find the actual account of this story in Exodus, chapter 16. Or, click here.)
By DeidraLeave a Comment
Yes, our human desires for comfort….never quite see the blessings in the midst of the storms until we can look back and see the path God has brought us through…..like you, I would have grumbled….but, there are days/moments where I start singing praises instead of despair and that keeps the wilderness at bay (for me….)
Grumbling is so easy, isn’t it? It’s a gift when you can push through to the praise, to find that God was waiting right there for you!
Beth Pederson says
I’m there now and I find that I keep my eyes on Him and remain faithfully In His Arms.
I read, read, read His Word! Often I go to the Psalms. Today it’s Psalm 142, what a promise …. Thanks for sharing.
Yes! Showers of blessing! What a promise! Let it rain!
Lisa H says
I lived in the wilderness for so long! And he brought me out of it even though I was kicking and screaming and crying and complaining all throughout the travels. I was scared of the unknown, I was leaving the comfort that I had known for so many years even as dysfunctional as it was. I was like the Isrealites, Jesus sent them Moses and he sent me a wonderful godly woman to hold my hand and walk with me as he guided me out. She listened to my complaints and my tantrums and she would pray for me and with me. Now I am on the other side of the river but know the wilderness is not that far behind me. I can still feel the water splashing on the backs of my legs! The difference is that NOW I TRUST HIM to lead me out of whatever mess I find myself in as long as I take it to him with a willing heart. And he is still using this same woman he sent 3 1/2 years ago to walk with me. She is now a friend and a mentor and a wonderful teacher. I still panic, I still get anxious, I still worry and I still doubt. But I also know where to turn, what to read and how to pray which are things I didn’t know (even though I thought I did) at the beginning of this journey.
Have a wonderful Easter!
You came out of the wilderness with your arms overflowing with blessings! Now THAT’s something to rejoice about! Thanks so much for sharing this encouraging story.
Thanks for that reminder! This entire YEAR I’ve been in the wilderness and I, too, turn to those early chapters in my bible to remind me of God’s love and protection through it all. I espeically cherish the “little” ways that God displayed this. Did you know their sandles didn’t “wear” for 40 years? It would have taken them 40 years to figure out that they were going to stay as new as the day they first put them on! Sometimes we don’t notice the “little” things until we look back.
Tracie, I needed that reminder to remember and notice the little things. God is always looking out for us, isn’t He? Even when we’re not even paying attention.
Marilyn Yocum says
THIS is serious walking-with-the-Lord, this wilderness stuff, but the path to the most fabulous destination often requires a wilderness passing.
BEST PRACTICES I have found:
– Focus on the very NEXT STEP put in front of me. Just that one. And after that, take on the one that follows. Trusting all the way.
– Be constant in prayer as I. MAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE so it doesn’t run wild. Whatever it is, pray it out, saying it to the One walking alongside.
– LOVE something or someone every day. Intentionally.
In doing these things, I find I am able to REST, to lay down my head at night and sleep, and be ready for another day, something I really NEED to be able to do this, not knowing how long the full trek is.
And your words, “it wasn’t until the people turned to face the wilderness that they saw the glory of God.” Absolutely correct! Looking straight at it and calling it what it is – wilderness – seems to free me from trying to figure out everything and also unlocks my ability to see beauty in the midst.
NO PAT ANSWERS here. Just tried-and-true practices. Also, with every wilderness I’ve ever passed through, there come a time when I am talking about it in past tense. Always. Every time.
Marilyn, your wisdom is solid, and I can see how it’s spoken from experience. I struggled to respond here, as I’m going through so much now in my life and cannot find the words to explain it since I don’t fully understand it. Your best practices are helpful and I’m glad for your comment.
Thanks, Marilyn! I needed that kind of insight. I think we all know what it’s like to be in it, but it’s the getting through it that remains in question.
Marilyn, I don’t know if I’ll ever have words to tell you how much you bless me. Your wisdom is a gift and I’m so grateful that you share it so willingly. These Best Practices you’ve shared? They read like the beginning of a very good book. *hint-hint* 🙂
I’ve wondered if I am there now, and in many ways I see that it is Grace that brings me there…closer to Him and knowing Him and trusting Him, no matter what. It hurts. I wail. I complain. Yet so much of my spirit believes it’s for deep purpose. What I’ve been doing is coming face-to-face with my feelings and for me, seeing that it’s okay to be unsure. I’ve read of Jesus going into the Garden and asking God to take His cup if He wills – showing that it was hard even for Him to go to a place He knew was God’s best for him, and all of us. And I’ve read of Hannah and how she was in deep distress and felt tortured, and that she was loved so much even as she expressed her frustration. I’m at a place where God is letting me to feel – physically – what my spirit feels, and to let Him hold me and love on me through these painful times of confusion and growth. I seek out the wisdom and unconditional acceptance of strong friendships during this time, and lean on their raw honesty of what they think God wants me to see during this. And I read about His truth and His goodness, and it helps me persevere in my faith, as I doubt at the same time I believe.
I’m praying with you, Amy. I pray you feel God’s presence right there where you are…
thanks D…have walked the wilderness and honestly i have grumbled and kicked the dirt til i got it into perspective…
I think I’m an expert grumbler and dirt-kicker. 🙂
Adoption Mama says
Wilderness…hmmm…this is the very place I find myself…it won’t go away. So many times I feel anger…then repentance realizing God has me here for a purpose and I want to become more like Him. I am so thankful for His Spirit that convicts and comforts.
The wilderness sure does feel stubborn, doesn’t it? God’s there, completely un-freaked-out by the wilderness. He’s got you in his sights, my friend. Of that you can be sure! Praying for you…
Thank you, God used your writing to really speak to me this morning!
And God is using these comments to speak to me. Funny how that works, huh? 😉
Yes, I often relate to those grumbling Israelites… love the way you pictured them looking for the table all set with finery : )
I have been given so much blessing in the midst of my wilderness experiences… sometimes I look for it, see it, appreciate it – and sometimes I tell God I think he should be doing things a little differently… sometimes I’m not very nice about it at all. Sometimes I sound just exactly like those Israelites. I’m glad He’s patient and forgiving… I’m glad He loves me anyway.
And sometimes I look around at others who are going through their own wilderness experiences, and the hardships they’re suffering, and am ashamed that I ever took my blessings for granted…
“He’s patient and forgiving…He loves me…” Right there. That’s what it’s all about. That’s WHO it’s all about.
oh, i definitely grumble about wilderness living. something interesting to me about the exodus story, god CHOSE the wilderness for them. they could have gone on an established trade route, but he chose to take them through the rough places. but he. was. with. them. i have to remind myself of his provision and care and big picture plan when i find myself there.
Kendal – There is so much in that story that we can feast on, isn’t there? I do think our wilderness experiences are often custom designed for us by God. He knows how to get our attention and our grumbling doesn’t surprise Him in the least. I’ll be He even factors our grumbling in to the equation. 😉
I’m raising my hands with you, Deidra! Calling out the big “amen!” Oh, I do like my comfort zone. I need these reminders to shake me out of my grumbling, to prod me to count my blessings. Seeing the beauty in the wilderness does not come natural to me. I’m working on it. Keeping my eyes in the Glory.
It’s a bit like hiking up the side of a mountain that’s so steep you can almost touch your hand to the ground next to you while you’re standing up straight. Climbing up and over rocks until you reach a grand and beautiful vista that overlooks a river below you in a canyon. Just gotta keep on putting one foot in front of the other until you see the beauty. 🙂
Powerful! I’ve kicked and grumbled and cried my way through a couple of wildernesses, but on the other side I see God was leading me through a life-defining, faith-building experience. Like someone commented above, “the path to the most fabulous destination often requires a wilderness passing.” Amen!
And that, my friend, is a testimony! Everyone needs one of those! 🙂
Jan Udlock says
Your timing – His timing is amazing. Just read that yesterday.
Manna for today. Just today. Don’t worry about tomorrow.(as I say between clenched teeth.) 🙂
Thank you, dear sister.
As they used to say in church: “He may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time!”
Deidra, thank you for this message today. The Wilderness is beating me up and it’s because of my own stubbornness just like the Israelites.
We can do that to ourselves, can’t we? Just dig in our heels and keep ourselves in the place we’d least like to be! I know, because I’m really good at that, and I’m praying with you, my friend.
Beth Williams says
Have walked in the wilderness for a while, in the past. I just prayed daily to GOD & loved my husband & ran to him for comfort.
Eventually God brought me & my family out of the wilderness & into a semi better place. It taught me to stay close, close, close to GOD & HIS WORD!
Close to God is a really good place to be when you’re in the wilderness. And when you’re not. 🙂
Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight says
Unfortunately, Deidra, I find myself shaking my fist at God, just like the Israelites…
But maybe, just maybe, I’m getting better at trusting Him. Trusting He has something waiting for me, something yet to come, that will bring the ever-so-much-more fulfilling God-glorifying, than Teri-glorifying.
You can shake your fist at God. He can handle it. And while you’re shaking your fist, He reaches down and opens up that fist and takes your hand…
Journeying right along with you…
Holley Gerth says
So grateful for you, beautiful woman of words.
Girlfriend, I am equally grateful for you!
Cheryl Smith says
Guess it shows that His ways aren’t our ways and His thoughts aren’t our thoughts. I’d never do it that way. But then, aren’t you glad I’m not God?
It’s so true, you know. Finding God’s glory in the midst of our wilderness.
I’m so glad He doesn’t think like me. 🙂
Kristen@Chasing Blue Skies says
You are super duper wise, woman. Like, totally. 😉
Jesus shines through you!
You’re pretty bright yourself, ya know? 🙂
sara paschal says
I used to totally grumble my way through the wilderness. It comes so vast these days I had to change the way I move through it so I would not get lost. Like I tell my Daughters you need to SHINE when you don’t feel like that is when it is the brightest and that is where I have found my blessings;)
Shine on, my friend! Shine on!
I was just scrolling through some old e-mails and came across your bio and the story “What To Do With The Wilderness.” You talk about a God-send! Our Father knows what we need, when we need it and how to get it to us. It seems I have been in a wilderness for several years now.
I am praying, fasting and reading God’s Word. Of course, I could and should be more diligent. However, it is only by His Grace that I am not consumed. I know there is a writing ministry in me that needs to come forth. It has been a desire of mine even in my younger years. I have grumbled and complained about my wilderness experience(s) but after reading your article I feel the need to share those experiences with others, especially my sisters.
Thank you for allowing God to use you to share with us that we “need to face our wilderness.” I realize now that I have had my back to the wilderness, not wanting to go into uncharted, unfamiliar territory, not wanting to give up my comfort zone. I must start today taking the steps to go on through the wilderness, it’s definitely not going any where. The progress I make is left up to me and with God’s help I know I will make it and be a blessing to others as you have been to me.
Be Encouraged and Be Blessed, my sister. Let God continue to use you mightily. To God Be The Glory For The Things He Has Done!