|Week 2| By Way of the Wilderness
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Have you ever taken a wrong turn resulting in an unexpected adventure into unknown places? I certainly have in more ways than one. I remember one specific experience back in high school I will never forget. My brother’s and I went up into the mountains of New England for a day to ski with friends. We had a blast that day and as the sun began to set, we reluctantly headed back home while swapping stories from the slopes. Little did we know, the adventure was not over.
Shortly into our drive home, my brother realized we needed gas. This awareness took us from our intended route and as we drove into what looked like an abandoned forest, I began to wonder where our GSP was taking us.
As you can imagine, this new direction was much longer than intended and as the street lights became less frequent, sibling quarreling began. Picture this: Snowy pitch black roads, zero cell reception, a loss GSP signal, low to no gas in the car, and my two older brothers and I all freaking out.
What an adventure I tell you. Needless to say, we survived although looking back I cannot remember just how we managed to get ourselves back onto the main road to find a gas station.
This humorous narrative is one I can now look back on and laugh at the craziness of its events. Yet, I can still vividly remember the fear and frustration I experienced in this wilderness adventure; and if I am being quite honest, I have recently felt this same fear and frustration amidst my present wandering which has wearied my soul in seeking safety.
Being physically lost is scary, but feeling spiritually lost is even scarier.
When God leads us into the wilderness, we tend to wonder why. In our wandering, God’s direction often seems distorted by discouragement and daily detours blur the course of our desired destination.
Been here? Me too, friend, and I have learned: The wilderness is a testing ground of trust.
Hebrews 11:1 defines this transfer of trust saying, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” By this definition, trust is founded in our belief in God’s warranty to fulfill His promise.
Here is the obvious question: Do I fully trust God?
When I am brought into the wilderness, do I forget my faith or fight for focus?
Looking back to the Israelites’ wilderness adventure, we can see God’s provisions and promises are sure even in the reality of our uncertainty.
When the Israelites first left Egypt, in chapter 13 of Exodus, there is a significant passage that has recently caught the attention of my heart like never before.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.” (v.17-18).
I cannot even make this stuff up. How powerful is this passage? Look at the provision and protection of the Lord for His people.
Here, we see that God, in love, leads His children in around-about direction for the purpose of their protection. This is such an important truth for our hearts to hold on to when our desired direction is detoured.
You see, geographically, the closest route to the Promised Land would have been through the land of the Philistines. Who, if you remember, were not friendly with the Israelites.
In last week’s post, I explained the concept of proximal learning. Here we see an incredible example of God’s spiritual scaffolding. Scripture implies God thought about the current capability of His children to withstand the journey to his intended place. Knowing that they were weary from their captivity in Egypt, He knew that they would have resorted to returning to their slavery than facing war with the Philistines.
In light of this foreknowledge, the text states, “But God led His people around by way of the wilderness...”
We are given so much insight into God’s character in these verses. As I reread this passage, my heart is awakened to the truth of God’s good plans and provision for His children.
Oh, how I have argued with God for taking me the “long way”. Quickly, questioning His love and loyalty in my loneliness.
What I felt as God deserting me was really God preserving me.
What I believed to be God’s lack of attention was really God loving direction.
What I viewed as God’s passive objection, was truly His fatherly protection.
You see, when God led the people by way of the wilderness, He was purposely protecting them and planning for their provisions.
Hold on to these two important truths friend:
No.1 | When God leads us into a wilderness of whys, there is always a protective purpose.|
Now, you may be thinking, What about loss and pain, how are painful places part of God’s protection? Great question, I don’t have all the answers and I will not negate the grief and gravity of such seasons yet through my own tears, I have fought to find faith in the Father I claimed to follow(I will share more on this journey next week).
No.2 |When God leads us into a wilderness of wandering, He will always provide His presence.|
Look at how He provided for the Israelites in the following verses of Exodus 13.
“ And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night” (v. 21-22).
Here is where I have found the faith to follow God forward. As I walk into the unknown, uncharted, and completely contrary course life has taken, I can trust that God’s plan and presence are a promise. Just as the Israelites were provided with God’s presence as a pillar, We too are given Christ, our forerunner, as a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:18-20).
My hope is this: that we would continue to fight for focus in our faith daily, straining to “perceive” and believe in all that God is about to do in and through the great wilderness.
"God may not give us an easy journey to the Promised Land, but He will give us a safe one." –Bonar