It was going great!
Until it wasn’t.
I was on the mountain top. Excited! Euphoric! Hopeful! Full of anticipation!
Then…without warning…I found myself in a deep, dark valley leading to a vast, isolating wilderness.
That was almost three years ago.
You’re probably nodding your head because you’ve had a similar experience. Or, maybe this is your current reality.
Oh, my friend, I feel you! I know where you are—and it’s HORRIBLE! For several days I staggered around wondering, “What happened? How did I get here?” I had no direction. I felt unstable. Unsure. Uncertain. Alone.
And I was angry! So very angry.
The lies, hurt, and betrayal fed my anger until I couldn’t find my anchor in Scripture. Until my prayers became groans. Until my journal was filled with more tears than words. Until my thoughts and emotions were a hot mess.
To add salt to the wound, I was abandoned by several people I considered close friends. A few couldn’t understand my situation. Others wouldn’t. So instead of walking beside me, encouraging me, and praying for me, they walked away—some with gossip sliding off their tongues. As a result, I pulled within myself. And in my anger, I sinned. I erected a protective barrier around my heart, vowed never to trust again, and kept everyone at arm’s distance. (Not my best decision.)
Even my family wasn’t sure what to do or how to help. And I didn’t know what to tell them. But they, and a handful of real friends, diligently prayed for me, encouraged me, and loved me. They were there when I needed them. They never coddled me or felt sorry for me, even though they felt bad about the situation. And they weren’t afraid to speak Truth whether I wanted to hear it or not.
But precious few of those people knew how Satan mercilessly assaulted me with lies until I was confused, frozen, and numb. Until I shut down. Left social media. Stopped writing. And stopped doing the ministry I love. Until I forgot how to trust and how to reach out. Until I no longer desired to be salt and light to those around me.
Fast forward to now…
I’m starting to step out of that season, and I confess, it’s scary out here.
2o Years & 2 Prolonged Wilderness Experiences
This was my second prolonged wilderness experience in about 18 years. Both seasons were critical and necessary. Both grew, deepened, and enriched my faith. Yet, both were vastly different in every other way.
Last time, I plunged into the valley when repressed memories of sexual abuse erupted. However, it wasn’t until Jesus took my hand and led me into the wilderness that I learned my abusive past wasn’t my story, it was only where it began.
He initiated my healing by infusing me with His Spirit and igniting a zealous passion for His Word deep in my soul. Then He began the life-long process of teaching me about Himself, renewing my mind, and giving me a new heart. A heart that beats for Him—and His people. A heart that loves as He loves. A heart that mentors, disciples, and encourages others to know Him and love His Word as I do.
Then He presented me with my calling and pointed out where He is taking me. I could see the destination in the distance and started moving in that direction.
This time God allowed lies, betrayal, and deep wounding to catapult me into the valley in order to get my attention because I either missed or ignored all His previous efforts. I was so distracted with doing all the things, being all the things, and making all the things happen, that I didn’t realize I was walking out of step with the One who called me to these things. To this ministry.
So He stepped in.
To interrupt my journey. To remove all my distractions. To take away all the things until He alone was my focus. Until He became my go-to guy. My first and last. My everything.
From there, He reignited my wonder for His Word by opening my eyes to its connectivity. He brought me deeper than ever before, revealing Truths I hadn’t previously seen or understood. And I was CONSUMED!
Instead of despising my isolation, I actually reveled in it. I delighted in being alone with my Savior and began to celebrate the lack of distractions. And that’s when I realized Jesus was not only teaching me, He was refreshing my soul and my body. See, I inadvertently ignored them for so long I didn’t realize how weary they’d become. How weary I’d become.
And I was content. Satisfied. Sated.
Then Jesus shook things up and said it was time to move on.
He led me to The Path
He led me to a path, and I recognized it intuitively. This was The Path I’d been praying for for years. I’d known my direction—I could still see the destination in the distance. I just didn’t know how to get there from where I was, and I foolishly thought it was my responsibility to figure it out. So over the last 10-15 years I mistakenly started hacking my way through the brush, often forgetting to ask for His direction.
Now I had a glimpse of The Path! It was barely discernible. Narrow and overgrown. BUT IT WAS THERE! And the desires He planted in my heart all those years ago were vibrating with new life.
However, I could only walk the path if I fully committed to walking in His footsteps in complete obedience. Otherwise, because of the path’s condition, I would lose my way without even knowing it. So I had to choose to surrender to Him and His will. To trust Him in all things. To willingly put my feet in His footprints without being able to see what is ahead of me. In other words, I had to take my eyes off the destination and put them on Him.
Wait. What? Take my eyes off the destination? How would I know where I’m going? “Trust Me, I will show you. Follow Me.”
I won’t be able to see what’s coming? “Trust Me, I will guide and protect you. Follow Me.”
I do. Or at least, I want to. Truth is, I was choked by fear. “What if’s” swirled around my mind, blinding me to the “Even if’s.” Past failures consumed me as I allowed Satan’s lies to override my faith. “Trust me, Baby. I got you. Trust me.”
Then one day, torn by the desire to surrender and the fear, God’s whisper broke through all the junk and penetrated my heart, “Trust me, Baby. I love you. Trust me.”
That was the day I surrendered. Chose to obey. To walk in His footsteps. To trust Him in all things.
Little did I know this decision is what would propel me out of the valley and into the wilderness. The valley was where He got my attention. The wilderness was where He prepared me to do this ministry His way—not the way the industry says it should be done. Not the way the conferences tell us how to do it. Not how the coaches, blogs, and how-to books teach us. Everything I learned was about to be turned on its head. Sifted. And rearranged. He discarded much of it. But some of it was preserved, re-purposed.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Psalms 23, 37, and 139.
Once I chose to trust God in all things, He led me to Psalms 23, 37, and 139.
He used these Psalms to do two things:
First, to remind me He was right beside me—even when I couldn’t feel Him.
That no matter what I felt emotionally, He alone is my Creator, my Protector, my Strength, my Wisdom, my Stronghold, my Salvation, my Hope, and my Future!
Second, to teach me the 3 vital principles to thrive and grow during a valley/wilderness season.
1) Cling to Jesus. Submit to Him completely. Trust Him in all things.
He is the only one who knows the way. Who can light the darkness. Who can lead you out of the valley, through the wilderness, and in your calling.
2) Saturate yourself in God’s Word
Study! Study Hard! Meditate. Journal if you are wired to do so. Process. Dig deep. Seek out and employ solid resources. Don’t move faster than the Spirit leads you. Ask God to open your heart and mind to absorb, understand, and apply what He’s teaching you. Discover the connectivity of the Old and New Testament Scriptures. See His Story come alive in your heart and mind. Witness its vibrant relevance to your day-to-day life.
Pray until your knees are raw.
Pray until words fail and you can no longer groan.
Pray like your life and sanity depend on it—because they do.
And as you pray KNOW the Spirit is communicating for you and with you. KNOW the Son is interceding on your behalf. And KNOW the Father is listening. He hears you, He sees you. Be patient. Listen. He is able to roar louder than thunder, but He often chooses to whisper.
And then…pray some more.
Until next time–Blessings!