“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn't come naturally. It's a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”
―Charles R. Swindoll
Every follower of Jesus will experience wilderness times. The wilderness exposes our appetites, our sources of trust, our obedience levels and our true place of worship. Adversity introduces a man to himself. As Israel discovered, the wilderness is humbling, hard, ordained by God, and to do us good in the end (Deuteronomy 8:14-16).
The wilderness is a vital part of our development, but it is meant for our promotion! Trials and testing force the necessary questions. Where ultimately does my life, peace, joy and identity come from? It makes us ask ourselves: Where have I placed my trust? Is God my God or is He really my butler?
As Jesus modelled for us, the wilderness teaches us to deal with lies, forsake idolatry, and to stand on the “it is written” of God’s word. Steve Backlund quips, “God likes to send people to deserts to teach them how to repent. To change the way we think.”
The wilderness testing is one that refines our character, purging all the rubbish and keeping the gold. A friend of mine, Mike, noted that, “the most powerful son of the King is he whose trust is tested and nothing changes.”
I never thought I’d say it, but suffering in the wilderness is beautiful, despite the pain and agony. Why? Because it drives us into His glorious presence. And it is here that our faith is distilled and strengthened. Out of testing comes true joy and an unshakeable trust, because we discover that our God is always with us. Suffering adds a new dimension to our spiritual life, resulting in lasting peace.
In the wilderness it’s tempting to cry out, “God, get me out of here!” But often God won't change our circumstances until we relinquish our trust in them as the source of our longed-for security. He is too good and loves us too much to allow us to become victims and addicts who trust in things built on shaky foundations that can never satisfy us.
Paradoxically, as Abraham discovered, testing produces deeper trust (Romans 4:16-22). God wants us to know that, despite what is going on around us, His presence and power is within us. Our circumstances need have no bearing on the quality of our inner spiritual life and peace.
It is tempting to think that we must do something to break out of the wilderness, but trusting children wait. Unbelief leads to impulsive, sometimes reckless behaviour. In the Genesis account of the life of Joseph we read that Joseph’s engineering ways with Pharaoh’s chief butler arguably cost him an extra two years in prison (Genesis 40-41). Perhaps God had to purge the last bit of carnal independence from Joseph’s character so as to form in him that rare, Christ-like quality of meekness. Faith believes and relies fully on God and His will to be done. Be still and wait on the Lord. Your heart will be strengthened.