“Jesus had a different vision of maturity: It is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go.” – Henri Nouwen
Like it or not, our journey sometimes takes us through a wilderness: a place of need, a place of unrest, a place of loneliness. A place where we would rather not be.
What is common in the story of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Jephthah, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus is that they all had a “wilderness experience”. Most of them didn’t get to the wilderness because they did something wrong, so they deserved a punishment, but because they did something or all things right. It’s an awkward reward for a godly life. So a lot of good people of God were taken to a bad place by God. Yet a bad place can serve God’s good purposes.
WILDERNESS IS NOT FUN (not meant nor designed to be) so it’s not a self-choice, but it’s always God’s plan. (Yes, God’s plan is not always fun, but it’s always good. Good doesn’t equals fun.) Those Heroes of Faith listed above didn’t go to the wilderness because they wanted to. They went there, because they had to. They were either forced to go there (cast out, driven out) or were called to go there. It was not their choice. Even Jesus was taken by the Spirit to the wilderness and then later He chose to go there regularly to pray.
WILDERNESS IS WHERE WE BECOME POWERLESS AND LEARN TO LOVE. It’s a place where we loose control and become dependent. Wilderness is where everything is taken from us (position, past, future, influence, relationships) and we are left with nothing (as Moses), yet that’s the place where God shows up and will meet with us. It’s the place to learn dependency on God and to learn to give up control. It’s the place where God becomes our only source of life (security and provision). As we give up power and control of our life we learn to love, because the highest form of love (says and models Jesus) is to give up control over our life. It’s essential to learn to give up control and power in order to learn to really love. “Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love.” writes Henri Nouwen.
WILDERNESS IS A PLACE OF PREPARATION to be ready to serve God’s purposes. (See Moses, Jephthah, Jesus.) Without the work of God in us in the wilderness, we can’t do the work of God through us in the community. Wilderness is the place where we change. (See Moses, the Israelites.)
WILDERNESS IS A PLACE OF GOD’S REVELATION. It is where God speaks to us, where God meets with us. (See Moses, Elijah, Abraham.) Without the revelation in the wilderness there is no revolution in the community. The revelation received in the wilderness changed the course of history (see Moses) and changes our communities.
WILDERNESS IS WHERE FAITH IS TESTED (see Jesus). Wilderness is a place of sacrifice where we put our dearest on to the altar (Abraham/Isaac). It’s the place where our heart will be truly revealed.
WILDERNESS IS A PLACE OF SOLITUDE, SILENCE AND PRAYER. (See Jesus, Abraham). The place where the true power of life comes from: being alone with God in prayer. Wilderness is a place where we are forced to listen to God (Moses, Elijah), even if we don’t want to.
Wilderness will become the place where we minister from. (See John the Baptist.)
BUT… wilderness is NEVER a place where God’s story ends. So go through with hope and a teachable heart!