How many of you have had a wilderness experience with God? How many have had a series of challenges that seemed overwhelmingly hard? I have.
I lived in the wilderness. I had a tent there, a water pail, a tear stained pillow, and it got to the point where I would not answer the phone because it was simply bad news after bad news. If people knew my story, they would understand why God is my best friend, why being with God trumps being with them, why worship and intercession are crucial parts of my life, why intimacy with God is the highest priority, and they would understand the intensity of my current joy.
I would love to tell you God immediately takes away every challenge, pain, trial, or Judas experience. This is false. Every warrior, including Jesus, I have studied in the Bible went through a series of tests and challenges. James, who’s real name was Jacob, tell us the following…
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing,~James 1:2-4 (AMP).
Before you want to slap Jacob. I want you to change vantage points. Can you take a moment to look not from earth’s point of view, but heaven’s point of view?
Earth is a temporary place. Heaven is eternal, forever, does not change, has no pain or suffering. We may live 100 years on earth. There is no end to heaven.
Our loved ones who leave us far too soon, we will grieve. This I have walked through. The pain some days was almost unbearable. Yet I know for those in Christ, I will see them again. And we will be together forever, without end. Oh praise Jesus.
Our hearts that end up broken by those who are void of God love, they can heal. This too I know all too well. God reminds me over and over, “The love you receive from people is directly proportional to the love they have received from me. They can not give what they do not possess.” So you pray as Paul prayed that people would know the height, depth, width, and vast expanse of God’s love. You forgive and allow God to love you to wholeness.
Our disappointments are nothing compared to the glory of God. God withholds nothing good. Our idea of good often varies from God’s. God sees what is coming. We see today. We see earth, the physical realm. We do not see fully what God sees. Maybe that relationship or job would have brought hell on earth. Maybe that friendship ended to protect someone. Maybe destiny was on the line. Maybe something better is coming. Maybe that person left earth because they wanted to go home to Jesus. We do not see all. Therefore, our best bet is to climb up into the arms of God.
No matter what happens, God is so good He can bring something good from the situation for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes and plans.
What did I learn from the wilderness I could impart to you:
1. It is temporary.
Life in the wilderness is not the intention of God. Our mindset, murmuring, or complaining can prolong a short stay into a long one (read about the Israelites).
2. It is often a call to intimacy or spiritual bootcamp.
I am not saying God causes bad things to happen to get our attention. I am saying God does not prevent every challenge. Sometimes God does not immediately deliver us from, we are delivered through. I see prime examples of this in the life of Daniel, Jesus. God did not prevent all adversity. He did bring forth Kingdom advancement through adversity.
3. We can learn more about God and our own beliefs in the wilderness.
It’s easy to proclaim God is good when life is skipping through rose gardens, and every person prayed for is healed, when there is breakthrough after breakthrough. Is God still good when life feels like a massive storm?
Our faith is revealed in the wilderness. Unbelief is exposed. Our true ideas of God are put on display. If we take our thoughts, pain, and disappointments to God, we can grow! Oh my, we can grow stronger in faith.
4. We gather testimony of overcoming! There is power in being an overcomer.
I love the quote, “Smooth seas do not produce skilled sailors.” If I were placed on the front lines of battle, I would not want my commander to be someone afraid or unable to withstand adversity. You want someone who has overcome and keeps on overcoming. There is power in facing adversity and refusing to let the storm kill you!
We have authority in the storm where we maintain peace. Peace, dear ones, is a weapon. Tenacity and refusal to succumb to circumstances is powerful. It’s hard to beat someone who will not move or give up or give up ground.
5. Our character is refined in trials and challenges, if we yield to God.
The weakest person is the one who refuses to face challenges. They do not grow. They never allow their faith to be stretched. They shrink back, retreating from the next spiritual promotion.
Character matters. Jesus was promoted (grew in favor with God and man) by overcoming tests. What if Jesus just threw in the towel? What if He said yes to Satan just like Adam? We would all be lost. He overcame. He turns to us and says, “In the world you will have trouble. Take heart, I have already overcome the world!” He overcame demonstrating we can overcome! Jesus maintained peace in storms because He knew the heart of the Father and the intentions of God are always good. Always! Not sometimes, always. Even when we do not see it or feel it or understand, God is good.
Papa God, I thank you that these momentary afflictions are nothing compared to your glory which will be revealed within us. Change our vantage point so we live from heaven down. Help us to abide in your truth even when what we see is vastly different from your truth. You are always good. I declare peace into every storm. I ask for the anointing of your peace to flood every heart, soul, spirit, body of each reader. Take us higher, above the storms. You are greater. We can trust you. You will work it all for a greater good, even if we do not see it until heaven. We are going from glory to glory! May our faith not fail. In Jesus powerful name.
Erin L. Lamb