Thanking God for the Wilderness?

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Whaaaaaaaaa?”

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?”

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The Prodigal Son and That “I Had to Sin in Order to Grow” Thing

prodigal.jpgI’ve heard it quite a few times from young believers.

“I had to go through that tough stage of my life in order to find God.”

They’re coming out of a sinful time in their lives and acknowledging its darkness for the first time. What kind of darkness? Who knows. Our minds jump to the usual suspects – sexual promiscuity, drugs, partying – and it might have been that. It might be petty crime, or embracing of the occult. Or it might just a “crowd” that endowed them with a crass, hurtful personality.

Eventually, all things are exposed to light, and the emerging young wanderer starts getting honest. I celebrate with them in their light bulb moment.

But then you’ll hear some of them tack this on, in some form or another:

“I needed to sin so I’d learn my lessons”.

“I went through the wilderness because it was God’s way to grow me.”

“I wouldn’t have understood sin unless I went through it.”

Record scratch.

Wait, what? Where did that come from?

I can take a stab. In our age, popular culture has glamorized the wilderness. The hardened “guy from the wrong side of the tracks” is the hero from our stories; dirt under the fingernails is more impressive than white cuffs. He seems more real, certainly more relatable. His mistakes drown him and inflict their toll, only for him to somehow rise from the ashes and find an inner heart of gold, while the goody two shoes and the irritable authority figures turn out to be the real villain (how many movies have boasted this plot?).

We let this sneak into the church, too. The more debauched the old man, the more impressive the new. So much that young disciples actually feel diminished for having lived well from the start, because their testimonies are boring.

It’s a crock.

No. 

You did not “have” to sin in order to arrive where you are today. That is a lie. It is the wrong response to your wilderness.

And I plead with you to shake it, for it will also prove fatal to your recovery.

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