When life gets tough, I look for the quickest, easiest, most readily available source of relief!
I determined that my boss was a micromanaging insensitive task-master, so I looked for a new job. My car spent more time in the service bay than in my garage, so I sold it and bought a new one. My marriage relationship got way more complicated than I thought it was worth, so I checked out emotionally and had the audacity to ask God to let me out. At one point, I had gotten so averse to difficulty that if I encountered any resistance at all, I just quit and moved to the next thing. This was problematic because it fostered the spirit of fear that had taken up residence in my heart, reinforced a negative self-concept, fed the voice of failure that constantly whispered in my ear, and it led to a constant sense of shame. My husband used to call her “give up girl”. The biggest problem with being “give up girl” was that it meant I was not being who God created me to be.
No one likes to suffer hardship, especially not for an extended period of time. We want to live happy successful lives. I wanted to be a successful professional, have a successful marriage, and be a successful mother. Yep, that’s what I wanted–as long as it was easy. Fortunately, God is more concerned about me living an abundant life than He is about me being happy and successful. I’m not saying He doesn’t want you to be happy, I’m just saying He will never let you be happy at the expense of you being whole. Christ said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Abundance speaks of an oversupply of resources—spiritual, physical, and emotional. Once I realized this, happiness and success seemed extraneous. The challenge was accepting God’s method for achieving wholeness!
If you are a child of God, bible student or not, you have heard of, read about, or experienced this particular method: the wilderness method. You know that period of trial and testing that always seems to come in increments of 40 in the bible. Jesus was lead into the wilderness for forty days of fasting. The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years. It rained forty days and forty nights when God cleansed the earth. Our workweek is 40 hours. Okay, so that last one is mine!
God will allow us to experience circumstances that we believe could be totally circumvented by a miracle, and thus give us this awesome testimony of how He came in and saved the day. Everyone loves to hear that the doctor found a cancerous tumor one week, and two weeks later the tumor, and the cancer, was nowhere to be found. Or that the pink slip was delivered on Friday, and by the next Friday, you’ve accepted a higher paying position than the one you lost. Or what about the foreclosure turning into a total forgiveness of debt! We love these testimonies. These are the kinds of testimonies we pray for. Only, God often chooses to have us go through the experience in its entirety! No on-time miracle in sight. Whether you suffer through or struggle through is your choice, but going through is often the only way out!
So, let me encourage you who are currently experiencing your wilderness training. Yes, training. There is purpose in this season. Look at our dear sisters and brothers who were delivered out of Egypt. Exodus 13:17 says, “…God led them not by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was shorter; for God said, ‘if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.'” Here we have God answering their prayer by bringing them out of Egypt. That in itself is a praise report, but it is immediately overshadowed by the fact that they have to journey through the wilderness. Have you prayed for something to which this could be the answer? There was a shorter route to deliverance, yet God sent them through the wilderness. The chapter gives us a few main reasons:
- They lacked the faith and tenacity to handle the shortcut. History suggests that if the children of Israel tried to cross through Philistine territory, they would have had to fight. Israel lacked the heart (faith) and the discipline for that. In a sense, God showed mercy by allowing a trial that was commensurate with their measure of faith at that time.
- They barely knew God and were not familiar with His ways. Traveling through the wilderness positioned the Israelites to experience God’s character, and learn how He operates (build trust).
- For God’s own glory. Both Israel and the Egyptians would see the Glory of God. The Egyptians would come to know that God is the Lord by how He delivers Israel by way of the Red Sea. Israel, experiencing His provision through the wilderness will experience, and acknowledge God’s glory.
You might find yourself in a seemingly impossible situation right now; desperately needing a breakthrough or way out. You’ve been praying the promises revealed to you in scripture. Yet, you are going through! Don’t lose heart. Ask yourself:
- How is God using this to invite me to experience a side of Him that I’ve never seen before?
- How is God providing for my needs during this season? Express gratitude.
- How can this build my faith? What am I struggling to believe right now?
- What work does God desire to do in me? What is He trying to change?
Remember that God is with you. During their wilderness experience, God provided the Israelites with His own presence in the form of a pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night. This provision was two-fold: In both instances, the pillar provided guidance and assurance that God was still with them. During the day, the cloud shielded them from the desert heat. At night, the fire provided light and warmth. He is with you, He’s controlling the degree of heat you experience, and you still have his compassion and mercy (He is for you).