Joy in the Wilderness
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
If you know anything about the wilderness you'd know it's not a desirable place. There are very few people who desire to go to the desert, let alone live in it. This is simply because the desert cannot support human life. It doesn't have two things vital for human life, food, and water. Let alone a temperate climate, it's crazy hot. In the Bible, the story of the Israelites living in the desert for 40 years was that of a miracle. The only reason they survived was by the sheer miraculous intervention of God. God provided food for them daily, and also gave them water to drink.
Many Biblical authors view the world that we live in now as a wilderness. Even without the pandemic, we can all look around and note that this is not how things were supposed to be. For one, it can't support our deepest human longings. Nothing in this world truly satisfies, fulfills, or makes us feel secure. And if it does, it's only a matter of time before the rug is pulled out from under us. And more so now that we're navigating the covid-19 pandemic. Human life has never felt more fragile. I'm not stating these facts to dampen your mood, but simply to give you perspective. That from the day of the fall in Genesis 3 until now, the world is only getting harder and harder to live in. But in that same place where it all went wrong, God in his kindness made a promise that there would be one who would come and take the sting out of the deadliness of the wilderness. Again, another display of God's sheer miraculous intervention. Only this time he has provided a refuge, that no matter how terrible the living conditions of this life get, we will never lose hope. It will never swallow us up. We're forever redeemed from the sting of the lifelessness and hopelessness that is produced in this wilderness. And God's promised one, is Jesus Christ.
If we actually sit with this truth and let it simmer in our hearts, it will produce a joy as we've never known before. You see, before Christ's death, right after his baptism, he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Many scholars have different opinions as to why this was necessary for his ministry. But I strongly believe that one of the reasons is that God wanted you and me, 2000 years later after acknowledging our wildernesses, to take comfort in that we have a High Priest who didn't have to go to the wilderness but chose to, so that in our own corners of deserts we could cry out to a God who understands the unbearable pain of living in one. And that therein our found relatability to our Creator we would be comforted and experience a peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus, like the great teacher he is, in Luke 4:1-13, teaches us how to face our wilderness moments. More so, when Satan takes advantage of our vulnerable state.
Four ways of finding joy in the wilderness:
We have no chance of surviving the wilderness without prayer. The Israelites' strongest lifeline in the desert was that God lived in their presence. They were always close to God. They could always walk over to the temple where the Spirit of God dwelt and cry out. And God would answer them through Moses. We are so privileged to have the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. Think about that, If you're a disciple of Jesus, God now dwells in you. We have been placed with a Spirit that is full of power, love, and self-discipline. With the Holy Spirit in us, we can do much more than survive. We can thrive beyond our wildest imagination. And it all begins in prayer.
2. Read the Word
If there is anything that Jesus displayed to be of utter importance in the wilderness, is knowing the Word of God. If you know the truth, no one can deceive you, and most importantly Satan can't either. The Word of God is a trustworthy guide, a beautiful tale of a loving God who loves his children more than his own life. That he would stop at nothing to save them. If the truth of the word dwells in you nothing can steal your joy. Not even this pandemic. It can definitely try, but it won't succeed. So read your word, especially when you don't feel like it.
3. Fast regularly
Fasting is amazing. When you deny your body of its incessant cravings and you teach your mind that you submit to one Lord, your spirit simply yields to that which you're submitting to. Fasting is the quickest way to God's presence. And as 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Freedom from all that hinders you from seeing God for who he truly is. I know most of us fast to twist God's arm towards our desires, and that is all good and well, it's your right as his children. But this is not the type of fasting I'm talking about. I mean the mere act of committing to give up food for a period of time so that you can spend uninterrupted quality time with God. In fact, when Jesus was in the wilderness, he was fasting for 40 days, in an effort to drench himself with nothing but the presence of God as he was about to start his ministry. Fasting will change your life. I've learnt a great deal about the spiritual discipline of fasting, from meditating on Isaiah 58, and reading Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline.
One of the fundamental truths I learned about fasting food from Foster is related to the human body. He says that the human body doesn't actually get hungry until the 40-day mark. When we say we're hungry we're simply experiencing pangs from our mind-registered-eating-schedules. It's a mere reminder of what we typically do. In the words of Foster, the pangs are like an undisciplined child that can be brought to submission. I am not, however, suggesting that you fast for 40 days, let alone half of that. But merely giving you comfort that the next time you're fasting and find yourself with what feels like starvation only after a few hours into the fast, rest assured, you're perfectly fine.
4. Embrace the wilderness
Jesus embraced the wilderness so much that he went there voluntarily. I know you and I wouldn't dare. And that's alright. But the wilderness will happen to all of us. Is happening to all of us. The quicker we're at peace with that fact the faster we will get the most out of it. The secret is that when life is going well we are blinded and distracted by what we think the world can offer us. But when we are down in the dumps, we are reminded that this is not our home. We start to remove our hopes from empty vessels and place them in the hands of the God of the heavens. Unfortunately, it's only in the wilderness that we fully realize this. Its also important that we embrace the wilderness because, in many a wilderness that I have found myself in, I was fighting, or avoiding my low state and missed the benefit of communing with a God who is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34), and simply wasted my pain. Don't waste your pain. Show up and you'll never be the same.
Joy in the wilderness is possible and readily available in Christ. Seek him right where you are, seek him daily because Loved Girls, this is not our home. Our home is in heaven. We're simply passing through. And without clinging to the one who knows the way, we'll roam this wilderness aimlessly.