THE BEAUTY OF WILDERNESS
“My temptations have been my Masters of Divinity.”
The wilderness has very bad press but, ironically (Hebrews 12:11), great fruit. I am finally coming to see wilderness as beautiful. It is vital to understand that as children of God, no trial is wasted, no season left without purpose and without promise. “He makes everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Wilderness and trial are essential seasons in God’s calendar. And although God is only good and never author of evil, the Holy Spirit uses it all, leading us both in and out.
Jesus went through a wilderness, Israel went through it, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, King David . . . The list is long and distinguished. In the wilderness, God gently exposes the issues of our hearts, so that with our co-operation, He can graciously remove them and set us free.
In the wilderness, Jesus was assaulted by the devil with regard to His true identity. Take time to meditate on Matthew 4.
The wilderness forces the question. Who are you, really? Is your identity a by-product of your activity and usefulness (“satisfy your immediate need, make bread, perform miracles”) or will you accept your place as the beloved and find life in relationship and obedience? Will you believe who God says you are, your portion in Him and rest alone in that? Or is sonship and royalty not enough? The wilderness has a crafty way of exposing whether Jesus is Lord of our lives or butler to our desires and ego.
This perfect Father has so much more for us than what our flesh craves and what the world tells us we need. God loves us where we are but way too much to leave us in the shallows.
“And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons.”
The writer of Hebrews appeals to our remembrance. Where is your focus? What is your attitude to life, wilderness and trial? Kathryn Kuhlman said, “Whether life grinds a man down or polishes him depends on what he’s made of.” When we have the right (biblical) attitude we realise that the wilderness is God’s kindness, forming Christ in His children and making Himself pre- eminent in our hearts. The wilderness takes us from the spiritual bondage of orphan-hearted restlessness and joyless carnality, to a life of peace and joy in the spirit of adoption. The wilderness frees us from being a victim to circumstance to being content in any situation. Often we are drawn away from what we thought we wanted to what we really need, what we were truly fashioned for. The wilderness forms a bedrock of character to then house the true desires of our hearts safely.
“While Christianity was able to agree with pagan writers that inordinate attachment to earthly goods can lead to unnecessary pain and grief, it also taught that the answer to this was not to love things less but to love God more than anything else. Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief was not to be eliminated but seasoned and buoyed up with love and hope.”
Will your trust in the goodness of God, your confession of faith, be ruled by circumstance and feeling or by the word of God? How ruthless is your “It is written” response to what is happening around you? Steve Backlund said, “God likes to send people to deserts to teach them how to repent. To change the way we think.” The desert yields the godly sorrow without which there is no true repentance, no true freedom.
See how God tenderly exhorts His people, Israel:
“The Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end.”
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills . . . And beware lest you say in your [mind and] heart, My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”
(Deuteronomy 8:7, 17)
The wilderness humbles the flesh. This is so we can be free of the exhaustion of the flesh and glorify in the riches that God gives freely and God alone sustains.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, ecstatic intimacy with God thrives in the wilderness. Our dependence on God sparks deepening romance with God and thirst for His presence alone.“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” (Song of Songs 8:5). Have you become one who has the delightful life of leaning?
The wilderness is very good news if we will see it from God’s perspective and rest in His sovereign grace. Don’t waste your trials. Let God deal with your heart, that’s where His attention is fixed. Don’t continue around the same mountain time and time again. Come out of the wilderness glistening with romance, grace and power.