We could look at the trials and sufferings that we endure during our lifetime as wilderness experiences, like the trials and tribulations that the Israelites endured as they were led by God from Egypt to Canaan. In the wilderness we feel lost and alone. It’s unknown territory for us, to be walked and endured. It’s probably hot and dry. Resources, food are hard to come by. The wilderness requires us to give up any plans we might have for our lives, any objections to what is happening, although the Israelites were terrible at that! But, as the old ways and plans drop away in us, we can experience a deepening in our lives that will lead us to a direct relationship with God and all that He has in mind for us.
In the wilderness we leave the world and all its plans for us behind. We are forced to confront our own insecurities, fears, and angers. God provides manna/nourishment every day for our journey. We encounter wells that slake our thirst. We turn our backs on God as the old wishes resurface in us, only to be let go of again. And there we are in His presence the whole time whether we experience Him or not. God will provide spiritual leadership for us, a friend, a spiritual director, someone like Moses who has already had his or her wilderness experience and the Holy Spirit, to guide us, to help us to interpret what is happening to us and what God wants of us now. We may dream interesting dreams that show us the way. Or we may begin to feel God’s presence and to hear His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) within us. As we begin to recognize His voice beneath all the loud chatter of our own minds, we see a relationship of love and faith and comfort beginning to develop between us and God.
If we stick with this developing experience of God, we can even begin to enjoy the journey. We can see the borders of Canaan—the “Promised Land,” or the Kingdom of God—ahead of us. What used to be hidden from us now becomes clear. What used to be unheard by us strikes us with its full meaning. What was worrisome and fearful for us, now begins to make sense. We are about to cross the River Jordan, the entry point into the Promised Land. There we pause to regroup and to give over our whole selves to God, so that we can fully live in the kingdom of God here on earth.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21) In your midst can be understood as among you or within you. At any rate, the kingdom of God is accessible to us here on Earth, if we will follow Jesus wherever He would lead us. Freed of most of the burdens of this world and of our lives, we are ready to enter the kingdom of God.
Moses, the one who led them through the wilderness dies just before the Israelites entered Canaan. Joshua, who replaces him as their leader, encourages the Israelites:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9)
Having lived and grown through the wilderness experience, we are now ready to rest in God’s arms and continue to follow His guidance and love as we come back into the world, but fully devoted to God, free of all the world’s influence. Now we are ready to truly be His servants in this world, totally dependent on Him in everything. We join the other servants of God, past and present, who live/lived lives devoted to Him. And we live in freedom from the burdens of the world. The kingdom is a true community in which we are supported and loved by everyone and we are supporting and loving everyone as well—in the kingdom or not. Finally, we are able to love everyone, to serve God by serving our purpose as God defines it. This is our true destiny when we live our lives totally in God. The fruit of the spirit is fully alive in us: peace, joy, love, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control, that is humility. This is God’s gift to us when we emerge from the wilderness.
Questions to ponder over the weekend: Do I associate my challenges with the wilderness journey? Can I see that God is leading me all the way through them, accompanying me throughout my journey, helping me, blessing me, even as I struggle at times? Am I willing to take these challenges as gifts from God who only wants to see me grow in my faith and love of God?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who surrender our own desires in favor of following God’s lead. May we be always growing in love and faithfulness.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.