Lost Without a Sense of Direction
One of the most frustrating events brought about by the advent of modern communication is the loss of cell service. Whether we are trying to reach a loved one, call in late to work, or just trying to check social media, we feel an immense amount of annoyance and possibly helplessness because we can not communicate. Living in western Nebraska but frequently traveling to the east, I am well acquainted with that sensation. Once I get an hour or two out of town, I reach a ‘dead zone,’ where there are no people, radio stations, or cell towers to speak of. It is complete isolation from the outside world. It is in that wilderness that I begin to wonder what would happen if my car broke down and no one was around to help. I, like most people, like to think that I have seen enough survival tv shows that I could at least make do for a couple of weeks until help could arrive, but I am probably far less equipped for that sort of situation than my imagination would have me believe.
Luckily, I have yet to find myself in that place, but this thought of losing cell service drove me to a question. If we use prayer to communicate with God, then what is our spiritual dead zone? Where is our spiritual wilderness? The place where it feels as though all of our prayers are dropped, and all we seem to hear from the other line is static and the occasional mumble. And, more importantly, how do we survive in and escape from it?
The Bible gives us plenty of examples of people who found themselves both in the physical and in the spiritual wilderness so, even though we may feel alone, we are in good company. The Israelites traversed the wilderness for forty years, David found himself in the spiritual wilderness more times than I can count, John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, and Jesus, our Ultimate Guide, began His ministry with forty days in the wilderness. Through their lives and stories, we can begin to grasp how to approach our time in the wilderness so that we might return to society as soon as God provides us with the opportunity.
We may enter the spiritual wilderness in any number of ways. It is honestly easier to end up in it than it is to stay out of it. All we have to do to end up lost is choose the wrong direction and stick with it for long enough. After all, ignoring road signs, silencing the GPS, and refusing to ask for directions are some of the things we do best. A sin of one kind or another may be blocking our reception that we would normally use to guide us, and we may not be willing to let go of it. As a result, we find ourselves isolated and trapped in the hollow lies of Satan and temptation. We may have entered the wilderness in a form of self-exile. Feeling the pain of inward shame and guilt, we might have cut ourselves off from society believing that is what we deserve. On the flip side, we may have walked out into the wilderness in pride. Claiming that we do not need Christian society (i.e. the church, accountability groups, Bible studies, fellowship) to help support us. That we are totally sufficient and can do this whole ‘Christianity thing’ just me, my Bible, and God.
That being said, it does not always have to be for a negative reason that we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We may end up in the spiritual wilderness for the same reasons we often enter the physical one: to travel from one place to another. God may call us from our normal surroundings, lead us through the spiritual wilderness to a new place, and then settle us there so that we might better carry out His good and perfect will. He might lead us into the wilderness so that we may learn to trust in His sufficiency. Our faith increases in Him when He makes it clear to us that He is the only one that provides for us both physically and spiritually. We eat from the hand of God, and that is often only made known when all else is stripped away.
As we explore this topic further, I pray that God might make the spiritual wilderness in our own lives clearer to us and that we might learn how to avoid it in temptation, to survive it in testing, and to leave it closer to God than ever before. Thank you for reading and I hope that you are intrigued enough to continue as I post more material on this topic and others on this site.
With the love and grace given to us through Christ,