The rebellious, proud district of my heart was sounding an alarm of protest. I’d just listened to a song recommended by a close friend, and the first line was, “Thank you for the wilderness.”
But my gut reaction wasn’t to thank anyone for the wilderness. I wanted to get out of it!
Like all of us, my life has carried its share of challenges. I’ve had many arguments with God about it. I’ve had many arguments with myself over whether it’s really God causing these hardships or simply me not being wise or prayerful enough. Of course, I’ve prayed fervently for lusher ground.
And that last part is a big one. One fears that if he accepts the wilderness, God will prolong it.
As if I really had any say in the matter.
But another part of me, one which is growing louder and stronger each year, asks instead, “God, what have you accomplished in this wilderness?”
He isn’t just killing time. He doesn’t have us in a mindless holding pattern for no reason. Whatever our wilderness, he has a reason for it. He is sanctifying us, purifying us, melting down our golden calves. It’s never pleasant. That’s why it’s powerful. We’re learning to let go our preferred way of living life, and embrace a program from Someone else.
And the fruit will be astonishing.
If chosen men had never been alone,
In deepest silence open-doored to God,
No greatness would ever have been dreamed or done.
The truest power of the wilderness is that we are left alone. Rarely can anyone give answers or offer true, superior comfort in those depths. And so we must turn to God, the most enduring love, for our sustenance.
If we’re all really honest…we just don’t care about the things God is preparing us for. We really don’t. We struggle to care about even his love. Things are hard and we just want to skip ahead to the next good time.
But I would say from experience…you’re going to need the fruit. You’re going to want the fruit. Trust me. There’s a day coming when you will look back on the great things God did in your life, using the tools that he could only have fashioned through your wilderness, and say, “It’s a good thing he put me through that first.” We will share the mind of Shasta of The Horse and His Boy, who walked by Aslan in the dark mist for a night, and only in the morning once Aslan had gone, realized that Aslan had been walking between him and a fatal precipice the entire time.
Get a head start on that thankfulness today. Crucify your flesh, the part that wants just a little dignity for its injured pride towards God. Crucify it. Pray out loud that you are grateful for the hard times God has allowed in your life, and that you are eager to see what he’s been doing with them. Praying this, hearing yourself pray it, will help break up the parts of your heart that are calcified to God. Chip away at the old man.
I pray God will answer that prayer for you. He’s happy to show off his handiwork.
And even harder, but even better…we must give ourselves over to the remaining wilderness. If this is God’s doing, then it’s going to last for exactly as long as he wishes – whether I accept it or not. I have to accept that a season must accomplish its purpose. Perhaps embracing the lessons is the faster route than fighting them.
But perhaps God is not immune to our longings, either. A friend once said “I believe God stands there with arms outstretched, saying ‘Yes, yes, here!’ the moment he feels he can.” I’ve never forgotten that. It keeps me from seeing God as aloof, and instead preserves the image of an intentional but very generous and kind-hearted God.
In the meantime, we must decide where we’ll stand.
I will thank God for the wilderness.