Understanding that God-ordained time in the spiritual wilderness is a time for growth and communion with God can be a huge comfort to those that are in it. It can feel like a time of extreme uncertainty and danger. We imagine wild animals in every direction are preparing to attack us. So hearing that God is right there to protect us brings a sense of peace that is beyond words.
But, if the whole point of us being in the spiritual wilderness is to learn to trust God, then shouldn’t we just sit down under some nice looking tree and wait for God to provide for our every need? After all, relying on ourselves to get anything done in the wilderness really just takes us further away from that goal. Not at all! We should be active in our waiting for the Lord to reveal His provision to us. He warns us against that sort of lay-around-until-God-arrives attitude in Matthew 24 verses 45 through 51,
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (NIV)
We should always be living as though Christ were about to call us home at any moment. But how do we do that without turning towards vain strivings and fruitless works? How do we walk the line between taking no action and taking action that places our trust in ourselves? We must take the actions that best position us to receive God’s provision. God can’t feed us with the Word unless we are in the Word. He can lead us beside the still waters, but He can’t force us to drink of it. He can not take us through the valley of the shadow of death if we refuse to move forward. (Psalms 23) We need to put ourselves in a position where we can hear God. While the spiritual wilderness is isolated, which can make living there difficult, it is also free of all the noise of the world. There is a reason why we take a walk in the wilderness, not on the shoulder of interstate number 283. It is quiet, and when it is quiet, it becomes easier to hear the unbridled voice of God.
We so often hear God speaking through other people. We hear His voice in radio sermons, on Sundays, in the coffee shop, and online, but it is filtered through the mouths of other men. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, there is so much joy that comes from hearing it directly from God. I don’t necessarily mean in like an audible voice sort of way, (although I do not doubt that God could do that if He so desired, I’ve just never had it happen to me) but through a sudden thought that comes to you that you feel like wasn’t really your own. Or a piece of Scripture that you read that speaks to your situation so well that it only could have come from God. It is things like that, that God may more easily reveal to us in the quiet of the spiritual wilderness.
So what is the biggest thing that we can do to see God’s provision while we are there? Without a doubt, it is prayer. Constant, unwavering, unrelenting prayer. When you are in the spiritual wilderness there is really no one else to talk to, so why not talk to God whenever there is an opportunity? We should be praying that God would not only give us our daily bread but reveal it to us. We are so prone to gloss over God’s provision, but if we ask Him to reveal to us where He is at work, He will be more than happy to show us. That revelation should foster a deeper sense of gratitude and trust in God. It may be beneficial to take some time at the end of each day to pour over its events and ask that God would show us where He was at work. Seeking God in prayer and thoughts will never be fruitless. We may not see what He is trying to show us right away, but with continued prayer, His Spirit will reveal it to us.
The purpose of prayer in the spiritual wilderness is to establish a line of communication that will lead us to trust, but the actual provision normally comes from the second portion of survival skills: getting into the Word. If we hope to survive any length of time out there, we must devote ourselves to daily Bible study. “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 ESV) That is exceptionally true of our time in the wilderness. We expend a great deal of spiritual energy just trying to survive, so we need to consume more of the Word than we normally would, to make it through the day.
In this age of technology, it is incredibly simple to get access to devotionals, study notes, and all sorts of wonderful resources to augment our Bible study, and, while I believe that is a great benefit for us and should be taken advantage of, we also can not allow ourselves to forget how to prepare our own ‘food.’ Devotionals are like the pre-packaged bite-size pieces our daily sustenance, but if we fill ourselves up with them we have no room left for the real meat that can be grasped from the Scriptures. The Bible is living and active and, therefore, infinitely complex; it is the outpouring of an infinite God, translated to us by His infinite Spirit, that speaks to an infinite number of circumstances. (Hebrew 4:12) We should treat it as such. We need to let the Spirit speak to us, as opposed to only listening to the words of the commentator. We need to pray through Scripture as we read it. We need to ask God to reveal Himself in that passage to us. We need to ask Him to speak to us regarding our current circumstances through Scripture. And we need to be willing to receive His message and carry it out, to demonstrate, in our lives, the trust He is trying to build in us.
Most importantly, we need to be drinking from the Source. When we first arrive in the spiritual wilderness, we immediately set up camp. We often times do it unknowingly, but, without a doubt, we pitch our tents in an area of comfort and familiarity. We might pitch it among friends, on the couch, or with our families, but we always have one place that we go to feel a sense of security in this troublesome time. That is where we spend the most time. We rest there. We store all of our equipment and food there. It is the headquarters of our time in the wilderness. But, while attempting to survive in the wilderness, we can not afford to pitch our tents without thinking about it. (Psalms 1:1) We must deliberately choose a location with plenty of resources and untempered access to the pure Water of Life.
Once God reveals to us where He is at work in our lives, we must transfer our base camp to that area. That is where we will find the pure Living Water that we so desperately crave. We need to press into Christ, because, without Him, we won’t be able to survive more than a couple of days. I say pure Water of Life because Satan will attempt to drive us to unfiltered sources in our thirst for the true Source. He will offer us all sorts of alternatives and try to drive us to drink from the unclean waters, which will just leave us more dehydrated and closer to death than before. We can not settle for anything less than pure Christ and that is found when we walk towards wherever God is working in the wilderness.
Now that we have survived our time in the wilderness, by being provided for from the hand of God, we must listen carefully for His call for us to return to His city. We can not let our guard down, become overly comfortable, and forget to return home. God desires for us to commune with our brothers and sisters and sends us back to them to share what we have learned during our sojourn into the spiritual wilderness. The amount of time spent in the wilderness will vary person to person and situation to situation, but we must always be listening and trust that God will guide us back home just as He was faithful to keep us safe while we were alone.
I trust and pray that this series has been of some benefit to someone who is struggling with time in the spiritual wilderness. I, myself, just came to the realization that I have been passing through it myself to a certain extent over the past three years and recognized how deeply God had been at work throughout that time. He taught me what it truly meant to wholly trust in Him for every need both physical and spiritual, and He has proved faithful through and through. Let us take a moment once we have finished reading this to praise God for His endless faithfulness and ask that He would further guide us and others through our times in the spiritual wilderness. Join us tomorrow as we start up a new series: “Redemption in the Midst of Oppression.”
With the love and guidance that is ours through Christ,
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Psalms 23:1-3 ESV