New Places: A Wilderness Series
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
I love to travel! There is something about going to new places and experiencing new cultures that fills me with a sense of restored perspective and inspiration for my life. Whether it be a road trip to a new city, a weekend retreat to a quiet beach, or plane ride across the ocean, I am drawn to new places and the unique beauty each destination holds. In relating this concept to my spiritual journey, I have come to see a powerful parallel, one which has challenged my heart and stirred my soul, to seek new places in my walk with the Lord.
In contrast to my excitement of traveling and the adventure it inevitably brings, my heart has recently wrestled with my soul’s present destination. Questions flooded my heart, as I sought to understand why the Lord had directed my path to such a desolate place. From others perspectives, I was thriving; I had completed my Master’s degree, advanced in my job, and began making new connections. Yet, I felt lost and without direction, pleading with God to bring me to a place of promise and purpose. This quest led me to the passage found in Isaiah 43 verses 18-21.
“ "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
I read this passage through the blurriness of tears, as I felt much like the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness and often discouraged within my own personal desert. This passage challenges my heart to value the journey between where I have been and where I am going. I am learning that this journey of life, requires unpacking, reorganizing, resting, and renewing of our souls. I fight these seasons, viewing them as detours to my mapped out plans. Yet God, in His graciousness, patiently waits for my heart to find courage to take on the next mountain of change. He gently reminds me that He is my compass, directing each and every next step. With this introduction, I want to reflect on 4 themes through this series which are drawn from Isaiah’s words. My we find hope and healing as we step into new places with Jesus.
1. Embrace Change
"Remember not the former things.."Ah, this my friends is a hard task. It is a daily challenge for me at times to not look back. At the opening of this passage, Isaiah is referencing the former works of God on behalf of His chosen people. Isaiah is reminding his readers to anticipate, the deliverance to come rather than remain stagnant in the past. How often we do this with the Lord, focused on what we know of Him rather than seeking greater depth in our faith through stepping out in faith.
God spoke, “I am doing a new thing”. This phrase signals change. New things are exciting but also are not particularly comfortable and often unexpected. Change produces growth, it creates friction in our hearts to press in and hold tightly to the promises we have in Christ. In addition, it provides us with hope. As Spurgan penned, “Let us be of good cheer, it is better, further on; let us sing hallelujah by anticipation.” We know, our destination is heaven, with this hope, faith is sure to find its footing.
2. Fight for Focus
“do you not perceive it?” This question provokes my soul to strain in its ability to look beyond my current circumstances, to dispute my distorted beliefs, and look to the character of my Lord and Savior in seasons of uncertainty and change.
It is interesting that this passage begins with a command statement, “ Remember not” and follows with the question. I believe this is is quite purposeful. For how can we focus our attention, our hearts, and our lives on the glory of Christ’s coming victory if we are caught up in the past memories of His mercies. I have caught myself saying, “If only God could do what He did before”... but this is not faith, rather doubt in the sovereignty of God to do a new things in my life, to bring me to a new place, a new perspective and new purpose. I no longer want to live in the safety of the past but seek new places of faith.
3. Trust God’s Goodness
“ I will make a way..” This promise is full of claims as it challenges our doubts, our fears, and our disbelief that God can truly bring us through our wanderings.
Do we believe this? These last few months, I sought for a way out of my circumstances rather than asking God to reveal Himself through them. I became bitter at God for not “changing” the trajectory of my life and questioned His goodness towards me. The thread of God’s character to “make a way” is sure. The promises of God always point us to His sovereignty over our insufficiency. When the Lord wills, waters part, rains come, and lives are restored. Jesus never says, I will take you out of the wilderness or I will remove the desert like spaces, but rather, I will make a way - this means we walk through them with the knowledge and security that our strength and sufficiency comes from Him alone.
4. Praise in the Process
“ that they may declare my praise” Isaiah is not referring to the finish line kind of celebration or the cheers of thankfulness after our way has been found out of our wandering; but rather, our response to experiencing the Lord's sustainment in the midst of our searching. Like Paul's response to his imprisonment, may we learn to say, "I will rejoice" in the wilderness and wanderings of our journey. For regardless of our circumstances or situation, we are invited to find our contentment, fulfillment, and joy in God's faithful presence.
My dedication through this year has been to seek “New Places” in my spiritual journey with Jesus. I desire to press forward into the forests, determined to find more of who Christ is in my life. So, as we explore these themes for the next four weeks, let us hold fast to the unchangeable truth that Christ is our present peace, our strength, and our song as we walk this path He has purposely placed us on.
Pack your bags, it's time for an adventure!