By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
Finding Hope in Wilderness Seasons
When I was a little girl, I lived in rural Mississippi, down a long dirt road that was named after my family, that offered no cable television, few visitors, and long hours playing in the yard. My sister and I also learned to love to play in the wooded area directly behind my house. We loved being in the wilderness and playing house and school and grocery store, and the like. We put an old chair out there and dug around in the trash dump for old pots and pans. Hanging out in the wilderness proved to be great, all-day fun, and it left me with such wonderful, childhood memories of imaginative play.
But being in the wilderness isn’t always fun, is it? It can get dark. It can be lonely. One can get lost. The same can be true of wilderness seasons in our Christian journey, where there is much testing and wandering and feeling like we are completely alone. Wilderness seasons are actually not our enemies, although they can certainly sometimes feel like it. Wilderness seasons teach us, stretch us, and grow our faith. They show us who we are when we are squeezed and pressed from all sides.
I’m reminded of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. He was pressed from every side. Paul was exhausted and pressed, and the obstacles were everywhere. The hardships were plentiful. In fact, his entire ministry seemed to be riddled with constant hardship. I know many of you can relate. You have been pressed from every side. Your pressing may look different from Paul’s pressing, but you have been pressed, nonetheless. The hardships and trials and disappointments of your life have been many, and sometimes, it feels like you just can’t catch a break, before another one comes through. So what do you do when you feel pressed from every side. How do you find hope in the middle of a wilderness season, when more seems to be going wrong that right, and you feel completely alone? Here’s what you need know:
There is power in Scripture. Read Luke 4:1-13. What did Jesus do every time he was tested? He quoted Scripture. He let the enemy know that He knew his place, power, and position. There is power in knowing the written word of God. You must be in the Word regularly – studying, learning, growing, memorizing - to know what power you have. Hosea 4:6 says ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge.’ Many don’t even walk in all the power they have been given, because they aren’t well-versed in the Word. When you are in the middle of testing, in the wilderness, you can stand strong on what the Word of God says. Our God will not leave us. His hope is eternal. He holds us up with His victorious right hand. He supplies all our needs. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His joy is our strength.
Learn to follow instructions. Learn to hear from the Lord. Follow His commands. Be obedient to his voice. The Israelites were rescued from slavery through the leadership of Moses. He led a national revolt, because God spoke to him to do so. He gathered the people, and they literally ran for their lives as the Egyptians came chasing after them. They had been beaten, abused, malnourished, and mistreated. Their enslavement was all they’d known. This was no easy feat to rescue the Israelites. Moses’ calling was surely a scary one. But Moses had learned what it was to follow the voice of God and to obey His commands faithfully – even when it was hard.
Trust God, even when you don’t understand. Exodus 13:17-18 says that God did not lead the Israelites along the easiest route to the Promised Land, even though it was the shortest way. He said that if it got too tough and they were faced with a battle, they might just change their minds and give up! They might just turn around and go home! Think about that for a minute. What should’ve taken days took years. Have you been asking God why you are experiencing a wilderness season right now? Why am I here? Why am I wandering? Am I being punished? I’m tired, Lord. Could it be that you’re being led in a roundabout way because God is teaching you something? Could it be that even in the middle of a very difficult season the Lord is teaching you a new thing that will be necessary in your next season?
Rest. Rest in the middle of the wilderness. Rest in His presence. Get alone before the Lord, even when there are raging storms all around you, and truly enjoy Him. Delight in Him, knowing the same God that rescued you from prior wilderness seasons will surely show up again. Don’t complain and whine and scream and flail around like a small child throwing a temper tantrum. Ask the meatier questions of, “Lord, what are you teaching me here? Lord, how can I be of service to you, even in my pain?”
Father, give me the endurance to wait well. Teach me how to rest in the middle of the storm. Teach me what it is to have complete trust in you and obedience to your Word and instruction. Help me to exemplify you in word and deed, that I may be a living testimony of your goodness, grace, and mercy. Help me to be thankful in seasons of much and little. Amen.
Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.