The Purpose of the Wilderness

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; All your breakers and your billows have swept over me. Psalm 42_7 (1)If you are not in a wilderness period now, chances are you will probably experience a time like this in the future. It’s the moments where we are spiritually thirsty and hungry for God. It can be puzzling when we are in these moments because we begin to doubt and question God. If there was a word that could be used to define these moments, I would say that it would be “Why.” Why do I feel like this? Why am I in this desert? Why does God seem so far from me? Why won’t he return to me?

Though it can seem presumptuous to ask God these questions, we can find the psalmist asking these questions as well. In Psalm 42, the psalmist says, “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?” (v. 5, 11) Later on, he writes, “I will say to God, my rock, Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” (v. 9) It’s natural to question God during these moments, and even Jesus on the cross asked God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Sometimes, we know the purpose of the wilderness, as Jesus did when he asked God that question. Other times, we may not know in this life why we have to experience the things that we do.

In these times, it’s incredibly important to remind ourselves of two things: (1) we can trust that there is a purpose for the wilderness, and (2) in the wilderness, we can rely on the goodness of God to carry us through. As we think about the ‘why’ behind our wilderness wanderings, it’s first important to ask ourselves how we got to this point. Sometimes, our wilderness comes from forces outside of us, whether that’s circumstances, conflicts with others, or the adversary like we discussed yesterday. We can look at the examples of Elijah and Jesus to see wilderness experiences that were due to the fallenness of the world, not their own failings. Yet, at other times, the wilderness can be caused by our own actions, like in the case of the Israelites.

During these times, we have two options: We can turn toward God or away from him. It’s this choice that will determine whether or not the wilderness experience will help us to grow or to be destroyed. In this devotion, we won’t be able to come to a definitive answer of why bad things happen to good people. But, we can answer the real ‘why’ behind our wilderness experiences. During this time, we have the option to lean on God and learn what it means to walk hand in hand with him. To experience complete dependence on God. The wilderness may be difficult, but it’s also in these moments that we experience more deeply the salvation of God. Going back to the Psalmist words in Psalm 42, we see that our wilderness experiences can make our recognition of God’s love more real and vivid when, after asking why, he says:

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Mt. Hermon (2,814 m – 9,232 ft) on the northern border of Israel

“Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed, therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breaks and Your billows have swept over me. The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night – a prayer to the God of my life” (v. 5-8).

We can pray to the God of our life. In these times in the wilderness, trust in your creator, and he will send his faithful love to you.

~ Cayce Fletcher

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