The next picture of remembrance is of a vast land. A terrifying wilderness. The land you had just come out of. A shudder creeps down your spine. It looks beautiful in a desolate sort of way. But there are hidden dangers lurking in the shadows and great difficulties this picture doesn’t reveal. Rock, ravines, and mountains are formidable obstacles for the elderly, young children, and women carrying infants in and out of the womb. How well you remember your legs stretching across narrow gorges as mountain lions skulked in the shrubbery. And how poisonous snakes, spiders, and scorpions kept everyone on guard and alert. Your parents were supposed to pass through this wilderness on the way to the Promised Land; but they rebelled, and it became your birthplace and first home. And the home of your people for the past 40 years…you’re determined not to go back…
“Then, just as the Lord our God commanded us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness, as you yourselves remember, and headed toward the hill country of the Amorites.” Deuteronomy 1:19 NLT
The Israelites are heading to the Promised Land (PL)! But in order to get there, they had to spend the next 11 days trudging through a vast expanse of land that filled them with fear and dread. Treacherous terrain, dangerous animals, and little water are not exactly the things you’ll find highlighted on a travel brochure. Yet this was their reality.
God brought them this way for two reasons. The first was practical: It was the shortest distance between where they were and where they were going. The second was logistical: It brought them to the center of the PL, giving them the prime starting point for conquering it.
But I wonder if there was another reason—a relational and spiritual reason. This treacherous wilderness was to remind them of His care and authority in their calling. To remind them of their reliance on Him and that He is in control, not them. Remember, they just came from the comfortable plains of Sinai. Now they were facing hardships and challenges they didn’t want or expect.
Are we any different? Think about it. When we receive our calling, the way to our PL is rarely smooth sailing. But we expect it to be don’t we? I’m guilty of this too. Maybe we’ve believed the lie that our lives should be comfortable and easy once we decided to follow Jesus; that our faith shouldn’t cost us anything. But this isn’t a time of persecution. This is a time between us and God. A time of molding and shaping. A time of refining. This time was meant to smooth off the last of the rough edges before entering The Land.
This is why I found this verse to be encouraging, if not empowering. My writing journey to this point has been full of ledges of uncertainty, ravines of self-doubt, and rocky crags of fear—and I am still in the foothills! There are mountains yet to be climbed!
Dear One, our spiritual growth and reliance on God isn’t usually forged when life is comfortable and easy, but when it’s difficult and challenging. Adversity has a way of refining us like nothing else can. But when things get difficult we have a tendency to complain, question our calling, or blame our hardships on Satan. When in fact, they might be God’s way of enriching our faith, enhancing our resolve, and solidifying our reliance on Him; of eradicating pride, jealousy, or other sin so He can make us into something we weren’t before.
In other words, we’re getting a much needed upgrade in order to be successful in The Land. Think of all the other upgrades you’ve made in your life: computers, phones, cars, homes, wardrobes, education, jobs, etc—you know they’ve all cost you something: time, energy, money—all three. But there’s a catch. Like accepting an update on your phone, you have to choose to accept the upgrade. Are you going to allow God to use these wilderness times to enhance your character, fine-tune your integrity, and remove anything not honoring to Him that would hinder you from fulfilling your purpose? I’m no expert here. But I invite you learn beside me so we can encourage each other. And when our steps fail and we fall, we can lift each other up.
Journal exercise: Are you in a wilderness time? Have you asked God what His purpose is for this time? Are you there because of rebellion or because of refining? I encourage you to submit to Him and allow Him to make you new.