When I talk about the wilderness, when I talk about the desert, what am I talking about? Spiritually speaking, it’s that place where you feel all alone. It’s that place where you no longer have the sense of God’s manifest presence. That is, you know mentally that God is with you, but you don’t have the sense of it. Everything feels like you have been abandoned or forsaken by God. Perhaps you are discouraged, or depressed. Perhaps you’ve been hurt or disappointed. Perhaps it’s something in your body, some weakness or ailment that you can’t seem to get the victory over. Maybe you’ve been under attack, either from other people, or attacked in a spiritual sense. Maybe you’re just pressed under the weight of circumstances. It could be a problem at work, or a problem at school, or a problem in your marriage. For many people it’s a financial difficulty, struggling to make ends meet, or trying to recover from a hardship.
Or maybe you’ve come out of Organized Religion, and there’s a great big void, a great big empty place in your life that used to be filled by “church”, and so you’re trying to find fellowship, but there seems to be no fellowship. Or you thought you found fellowship in a house church, but you were disappointed to discover that it was not what you thought it would be. For whatever reason it didn’t meet your need. Maybe you don’t even know why, but the point is you’re still seeking something you haven’t found yet. Maybe there’s something lacking in your relationship with God. He seems distant, or uncaring, or unavailable. You don’t have a sense that you are making any progress. You feel like you’re either standing still or going backward. You pick up the Bible and try to read but you get nothing out of it. Perhaps you keep this up for awhile and then maybe you give up reading it altogether. Maybe you try to pray but it seems like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Maybe you keep praying or maybe you just give up. Then perhaps you think you’ve done something wrong, that you have displeased the Lord terribly. You try to confess your sins but can’t really think of anything you’ve done wrong. You try to get back to the way you used to feel but nothing seems to work. Maybe you start to wonder if you’ve lost your salvation, or if you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, or grieved the Holy Spirit so badly that He’s left you.
If you can understand God’s Purpose for the desert, if you can understand how and why and that He wants to prepare a way for you in the wilderness, then I think it will encourage you. Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. There is such a blessing in the desert. There are things you learn in the desert that you cannot and will not learn anywhere else. But what I see too many times is people seeking a quick deliverance! God calls them to the wilderness, He calls them to the desert, and they resist it, or they go and immediately look for a way out. They don’t stay there long enough to derive any spiritual benefit. You’re trying to avoid the desert, or get out of the desert, because the desert doesn’t feel good. And I’m saying the desert you’re trying to get out of is exactly the place where God intends to bless you and reveal more of Christ to you!