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Archive for April 1st, 2011

I realize that I haven’t blogged much lately, and that’s been somewhat intentional.  We’re on “spring break” this week, and have been busy going on family outings and organizing playdates for the kids with their friends and cousins.  While I enjoy writing about food and family, I’ve been busy “doing” instead of just writing about it!  But matters of faith are still worth making the time to write about, no matter how busy our family is.

Today marks 6 months since my husband lost his job.  We’ve had several job opportunities that raised our hopes, but didn’t work out.  We still have a few possibilities for the distant future, but nothing immediate yet, and we haven’t heard whether or not we qualify for extended unemployment benefits when ours runs out in two weeks.  We are officially in a wilderness period of our lives right now.  It’s a wide open space with no shelter, comfort, or security.  The wilderness can seem overwhelming and frightening when you feel exposed to and unprotected from the dangers of the world.  Yet in scripture, I see a purpose for the wilderness experience in two different examples: the 40 years of wandering in the desert for the rebellious children of Israel, and the 40 day, spirit-led temptation of Christ in the wilderness.  In my last post on Fighting Discouragement with Scripture, I mentioned that there are God-ordained times when we must fight temptation with the power of God’s word, as Jesus did in the desert, in order to become spiritually mature.  So in this post, I’d like to focus on a different kind of wilderness experience.

The children of Israel grew weary of waiting on Moses while he was receiving God’s instructions for them on Mt. Sinai, and decided to invent their own god to worship instead.  As a result of their unbelief and grumbling toward God, an entire generation had to die in the wilderness before their children could move on to the Promised Land.  It’s tempting to think, “Oh, those naughty Israelites,” until we ask the question, “When have I grown impatient with God and decided to take matters into my own hands?  When have I grumbled against God because I wanted steak instead of manna?”

Sometimes we are in the wilderness for a time of growth, as we learn to wait upon the Lord and more fully understand his commands.  In order to grow, we must be pruned and rid of the dead branches in the same way we prepare our garden for new growth each spring.  My lily plant in the front yard looks terrible right now because I keep forgetting to remove the dead leaves from last year.  The new growth is struggling to emerge, but the plant will remain ugly and dead-looking until the old leaves are stripped away.  Sometimes we are in the wilderness so our dead leaves – false beliefs, self-centered behaviors, spiritual immaturity that relies on signs and wonders instead of deeply rooted faith – can be removed. When we cooperate with the work of the Gardener, the wilderness time progresses to the Promised Land.  But God will not take us to the Promised Land until his work is finished, until the old ways of thinking or acting have died.  I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing in my life worth holding onto if it means being stuck in the wilderness because of disobedience.

Yet even in the times of pruning and waiting, God is still near and working on our behalf.  In Isaiah 43, God promises, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” No wilderness experience is a waste of time, if it produces Christlike character and perseverance. We can come through the flood, the fire and the wilderness even stronger than when we went in because God is with us and working all things together for our benefit.  I may wish for more choices and options in the wilderness, but if I continue to be grateful for God’s sustaining manna, in time the blessings of milk and honey will come (if I’m willing to accept that they may be spiritual blessings, and not physical blessings).

The key to waiting in the wilderness, I believe, is to “wait on the Lord,” which is very different from simply waiting.  Waiting, other than offering an exercise in developing patience, can seem pointless.  But waiting on the Lord carries with it a promise: “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).  When we wait on the Lord, instead of rushing ahead with our own plans or solutions, he gives us strength to endure anything that comes our way in the wilderness.  Waiting doesn’t mean sitting around and twiddling your thumbs.  Waiting on the Lord means actively seeking God through his word and prayer, obeying his commands, and continuing to live out his call on your life until he changes it. For me, personally, this kind of waiting means that I continue homeschooling my children and serving my family instead of looking for a job, because I have continued to look to God for my purpose and calling instead of looking to my circumstances to determine it.  Just because my husband’s job has changed, doesn’t mean mine has.  Until God tells me otherwise, I will wait patiently on him and not try to foolishly “fix” our problems with my own solutions, the way the Israelites did by creating an idol.  It is in the wilderness that we find out whom we serve: God or ourselves. We can’t do both.

If you’re currently in the wilderness, take comfort from Hosea 2:14, “I will lead her into the dessert and speak tenderly to her.” While the desert may feel harsh, God’s tenderness and care are often more evident during times of trials than at any other time.  Only in the wilderness did God provide manna from heaven and water from a rock.  Only after Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness did God send angels to attend to Jesus.  God is with us in the fire, and carries us on eagles wings when we wait on him.  My response need only be, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done.”

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