I found an old recording of a journal entry of mine from 20 years ago. Seems like I was in a wilderness.
Then it hit me: I'm in a wilderness season now! About 18 months ago I responded to a call that was clearly from the Lord, and it's landed me smack in the middle of a classic wilderness. It would've been a harder choice to get on the bus if the ticket would've said "Destination: Wilderness" on it. Nevertheless, here I am.
Has this ever been true for you?
What do I know about the wilderness?
- It's God's doing, not man's. In Hosea Two, we read the story of one being "allured into the desert" to have her heart "spoken tenderly to there." It's a deeply good place. Because He is deeply good. It's not easy, fun, or exciting, but it will be fruitful. It's key to trust His heart in this because it can be so disconcerting and hard. But make no mistake, He allures you rather than luring you. There's no trickery in His heart. Only love.
- His voice speaking to your heart will bring about His desired transformation. How many times over the last eighteen months have I had to face the mirror and see what He was exposing from one hard situation or another. I've come face to face with the utter lack of love in my heart toward people. I've noticed my coping mechanisms, my go-to's, my idols. I've felt my own depravity and complete need for His holiness.
- It will be hard. I've felt "fenced in with thornbushes" and my "path blocked with a wall." "Why can't I make forward progress?" I've asked. I don't know if I've ever experienced the level of frustration, bewilderment, and stress as I have in this role.
- God will be near. It took me a minute to keep typing after that sentence. It's truer than anything else I've ever experienced. While God is always likely to feel nearer in suffering, in the wilderness there's a special closeness, a tenderness in His breath, that if I avail myself to it, will mark me for life. Previous wildernesses have.
And that's my hope, really. I know there will be fruitfulness both for me personally and for the people that I'm serving. I have massive hope for this. Let me give you the ending to this story. How everything is going to turn out:
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. "In that day," declares the Lord, "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master. ' I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. "In that day I will respond," declares the Lord-"I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. ' I will say to those called 'Not my people, ' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.' "
See? It's a heavenly destination if you stay on the bus to the end of the line...
And if you want to listen to that recording from my journal in 1995, it's below.