Lessons in the Wilderness

Corrie Ten Boom: You’ll never learn that God is all you need until God is all you have.

I have talked to several people in recent weeks who had all discovered this truth through difficult circumstances….losses due to death of loved ones or divorce, relocations that were difficult, alienation in relationships….one thing after another led to feeling alone, isolated, being in the “wilderness”. Each of these people were Christians who came to the conclusion through this wilderness season that God was using the perception of one’s “aloneness” in relationship to others to create a deeper personal bond with himself.. As that realization settled in with them, the sense of aloneness in this world became more bearable because of knowing God’s intimate presence. Each eventually emerged from the valley and found greater satisfaction in life because of greater trust in God’s goodness and presence. For some such wilderness experiences became a “watershed” experience after which they would never again question God’s presence or love, even though they may still question the reason for circumstances, their response to life, or what they were to learn.

In the Tuesday morning Joshua Bible study we were looking back at the first approach to the Promised Land and how their recent exodus from slavery had failed to lead to trust and obedience by the Hebrew people. In light of such experiences as some of us had known, we reflected on the reality that their time in the wilderness was not just discipline for lack of trust and obedience. It was a time of training and trust-building, proving his faithfulness to them so that the next time they faced the challenge, they were ready to trust and follow. The grand miraculous acts by God on their behalf in the Exodus had less impact on building their trust than the day in and day out consistency of his presence with them and in meeting their daily needs for the next four decades. Yes, a generation died, but the generations that remained learned the lesson of trust and obedience and God’s steadfast presence and provision. Joshua and Caleb more so than many of the others, but overall, they did manage to pull together and do what was required of them. .

I recall a day in 1995 when I was talking to my pastor, Rev. Norman Carr, at St. Andrews UMC after moving to Bay County ..I didn’t realize then that I was already in the throes of a deepening depression, but I said to him, “I feel like God has removed me from everything and everybody where I felt safe (in our former hometown of Montgomery for 21 years) and moved me to a place where I feel all alone. It seems that God is teaching me that I have to depend on him alone.” He affirmed that insight and told me that he was there for me and would pray for me. Later he moved to Enterprise, Al, but at a time when my life ultimately seemed to come apart, as the depression progressed, I had a vision of Norman on a Sunday morning (which I believe was an angelic appearance in a familiar, comforting form) in a courtyard by which I was walking in Panama City. The vision of him there comforted me and reminded me that God had guardians around me. I was never alone. That is when the real healing began. I would never feel so alone again. Circumstances might come and go. I might question what God wanted me to learn and why these things were necessary, but I have known God’s presence, comfort, and provision in every situation that felt like seasons in the wilderness again!