Overcoming the Challenges of Wilderness Wandering

What is wilderness wandering? It is a sense of weariness which no amount of sleep can remove. It is a sense of God being distant or even absent. It is a sense that the grind is overwhelming the glory. Rather than walking confidently in the abundance that Jesus promises, it is wandering in the wilderness.

While things like catastrophic circumstances, long-term illness, ongoing stress, and physical or emotional struggles can land you in the wilderness, it does not take one of these kinds of things to find yourself there. It can also be a slow, downward drift toward lethargy.

Wilderness wandering brings a number of challenges. Here are three:

The Challenge of Living by Faith: Though you may still be able to affirm truth about God, it is difficult to live by faith when that truth does not grip your soul. The seeming lack of the reality of God’s presence in your life saps the energy it takes to live by faith.

The Challenge of Continuing to Endure: Endurance is, by definition, hard. It is the willingness to press on when everything feels as if you should just give up and give in. In the wilderness, however, it can seem easier to simply give in.

The Challenge of Maintaining Hope: I define hope as believing so strongly in something in the future that it affects the way you live in the present. It is a way of saying that things will not always be what they are. The indeterminate length of the time in the wilderness can chip away at hope.

If you feel like you are in the wilderness now, you may relate to these challenges. If you are not in the wilderness, thank the Lord but also recognize that a wilderness experience may come. Is the person in the wilderness doomed to undergo these challenges or is there something which can be done?

Let me share with you some things that you can take with you into your wilderness experience. Realize that each of these things are ultimately dependent on the grace and mercy of God in Christ. Only He can deliver you from the wilderness. However, you are not to passively wait for deliverance. Consider these things:

Seek to Remember the Right Perspective: I was once told by a friend, “Don’t deny in the dark what you knew to be true in the light.” It’s an issue of perspective. When you think about the wilderness experience of Israel in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament, remember that in both instances the Lord led them into the wilderness. Since the Lord was leading that means there was a purpose to their being in the wilderness. While the wilderness is hard, the Lord has led you there for an ordained purpose, even if you do not know what that purpose is.

Seek to Do the Right Things: When you are in the wilderness, you need to make the commitment to do the right things, living by conviction rather than feelings. You will not feel like praying, reading the Word or doing other spiritual disciplines. Pray though you may feel God is distant or absent. Read the Bible though it may seem dry and boring. These are means of grace God uses to reveal Himself to you and you want to be there when the revelation comes. To get something out of your reading, take a small card and write the answer to two questions about your Bible reading: What does this tell me about who God is? What truth can I carry with me today? Take the card with you and look at it throughout the day.

Seek to Endure in the Above Two Things: I have probably learned more about endurance through running than through any other single thing. You probably have other things in which you endure. The idea is to translate what you have learned about endurance in another area into your wilderness experience so you can keep remembering the right perspective and doing the right things.

Ask God, in His grace and mercy, to enable you to fulfill His purpose in the wilderness and then deliver you into abundance.


About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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