We live with the benefits of a great civilization. We enjoy tremendous blessings from national stability and military security; from an economic system that, though damaged, still works; and from technologies that, along with stupefying distractions, bring amazing remedies and conveniences. And we know that all this could change.
“Wilderness” is a big theme in the Bible. Wilderness is the sphere into which the organization and comforts of civilization have not taken hold. The Biblical wilderness is no cultivated and patrolled preserve into which you venture with your best friend along with unused and untested REI gear. No, the wilderness is a testing ground, a place that will bring you to your knees. It is the place over which the curse of God hangs, and in which, if you are to survive, will need to discover something of the mercies of God.
In personal terms, you may be experiencing some aspects of wilderness life. To gain your attention or to accomplish some improvement, God may be resting a heavy hand upon your life. He, in a moment, can remove prosperity and pleasure, health and success. He can instantly bring us to our knees, and make us completely and immediately dependent upon him. All the securities in the world cannot protect us, nor can new technologies deliver us. God scatters us to wilderness experiences so that He can gather us to Himself.
Looking way, way back, Israel must have remembered those years of “wilderness wanderings” as the best of times. No, they were not without their tests and hardships. There were many failures of faith. But the desperate need for God was so real, they could taste it. And I wonder if Jesus, reviewing his earthly ministry, did not look back with fondness on those 40 days in the wilderness. There was the gnawing privation from fasting, and the spiritual battle with that Tempter, Satan. And yet there was the clear and steady reliance on the Word of God in the context of undistracted communion with God. Afterward, there would be the constant press of people, of the business of ministry. The wilderness provided deadly peril, but also genuine blessing.
Don’t waste the wilderness experience into which God may be thrusting you.