God in the Wilderness Seasons.
I've been walking through a valley with chronic illness as my companion for the past three years. This has been a very foreign land compared to what my life looked like three years ago. This valley has been where my faith has been tested. It's never been on the mountaintop that I’ve truly learned to rely on God. The enemy has come with all sorts of tactics. Some I have fallen to and others I have conquered, but never once has the Good Shepherd left my side. He has constantly led this little sheep through the dry places, to places of refreshment and living water. The growth and the things that I’ve learned here, have been things that I couldn't have learned in any other way. This is where my self reliance has had no choice but to decrease.
When the Israelites were being led out of slavery and God parted the Red Sea, they didn't need abundant faith (Exodus 14:13-30). The Israelites were on the mountaintop of blessings. God's blessings were flowing and all was great. Great miracles were happening all around them. We've all been there in certain seasons of our life.
It wasn't until the Israelites got to the wilderness, where the blessings weren't in abundance, that they fell into discouragement. In the natural, life looked harder than it had ever been. Circumstances weren’t as wonderful as they thought that they would be. This wasn't the dream life they thought God was taking them into. Instead of believing God and having faith in His promises, they complained and wanted to go back to Egypt to slavery.
Have you ever found yourself discouraged in your desert?
Unfortunately, I’ve found myself there a few times. Standing in the depths of suffering and trials with no control in either hand. But for me, I’ve found something different in this wilderness. This dry and barren desert has also become the most fulfilling place I’ve ever been. This place has taught me the most valuable lessons. When I lost all control and no form of success or miracle could point back to me, I seen God’s powerful hand and glory working in my life.
I’m praising him today from a hard season that he continually fills with his peace and joy.
Do you also remember a place in your own life when your hardest desert was completely worth the treasures and presence of God that you found there?
It's usually easy to believe and have joyful faith when we are on the mountaintop. But what happens when we find ourselves imprisoned, like Joseph was for twelve years? What happens when we find ourselves grieving the loss of a loved one or a loss of our own health, like Job? What do we do when we find ourselves in extremely difficult circumstances for years on end? What do we do with the times that we find ourselves praying day after day without any change or tangible answers to our prayers?
When we find ourselves no longer able to provide for our families or work at our career or serve every week in ministry, how will we respond? When we can no longer rely on our bodies to function long enough to get us to the places we need to go, how well will we deal with it?
Truth is, when I was on the mountaintop, I assumed when the most difficult valley hit me, I would be a great Jesus warrior armed and ready for battle.
Except, when that hard valley came, I wasn't the warrior that I had imagined I would be.
I was still a warrior, but it looked a lot different than what I had expected.
There were many times that I found myself hurt and discouraged.
I found myself, countless times, face down on the floor, crying out to my Heavenly Father.
This was the season in life that I could finally relate to the heart cries of the Psalms and the suffering cries of the book of Job. It's hard to relate to these books of the Bible unless you have felt intense suffering.
Those were the seasons that I found myself tightly clinging to The Word of God. God's Word is where I found the strength to believe in His promises, even when everything in the natural contradicted them.
When the struggle looked too hard I would always go back to God's word and say "Job's life looked tragic, but God was in absolute control. Job suffered great loss, sickness, accusations from friends and a loss of respect from his community.
This is where, Job, of the Bible said, "Though He slay me, yet I will trust HIM" (Job 13:15). Job found himself in the darkest of life's hurts and disappointments. However, He refused to shut God out.
Although, Job walked through some tremendous trials, years of lamenting and praying, we must remember that God did bring restoration back to Job's life.
I also looked at the life of Joseph in God’s Word. His own brothers were jealous of him and because of their jealousy, they sold him into slavery. Then, after he was sold into slavery, he was falsely accused of a crime that he didn’t commit and was thrown into prison for 12 years. God had a powerful purpose for everything that happened in his life. Not one year was wasted. This man of God could've given up in his years of suffering but he didn't. He could’ve become bitter because his family betrayed him, but he didn’t. He could have thought, "God, How could being in prison be the purpose or ministry that you would have for me? Okay God, I've prayed for years and I'm still in prison. God, I can't see the purpose in this. This isn't the dream that I thought you had given me." Although, Joseph was in prison, God's love and favor was still with him (Genesis 39,40,41). It was the small things in Joseph’s valley, like having the favor of the prison warden, that he could’ve easily dismissed as not even being a blessing. But he knew God was with him, even in the valley. He seen past his circumstance. Sometimes, it’s easy to miss seeing the small blessings of God’s love and favor when we are in the valley.
Although, scripture doesn't tell every moment of Joseph's life during those twelve years, I think that it's quiet possible that Joseph had some discouraging moments after not seeing any change in his circumstance in twelve years. He was human, just like you and I. He probably didn’t handle everything perfectly, but he had a heart for God. He had a heart that wanted to do the Father’s will, no matter the cost. This man of God humbled himself in the valley and worked as a servant. He continued to hold on to God's promises.
Our lives and our dreams may not look like what we had once envisioned for ourselves. Sometimes, God's purpose can take us to places that we probably never wanted to go to. Often times we don't see the purpose for us having to walk down the rough, beaten path.
When and if God chooses to unveil his purpose to us we can then look back and see how all things were working for our good and for his glory.
In my own life, I can't see God's purpose clearly but I know He has a perfect one. I thought when I became home bound for months, during my sickness, that there was no way I could help the church or be a part of any ministry or missions. This brought a heaviness to my heart. But God put a fiery passion in my heart to write. He said to write, so I write. I think, sometimes, he gives us little things to do in our suffering that bring comfort to us and to others.
It's really easy to give up when the suffering and the pain seem too much to bear.
Friends, hold on to hope because I believe the Holy Spirit wants to transform us into something that cannot be moved or shaken.
We will come out of of the wilderness stronger.
We will come out able to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I pray we will still be standing strong, years later, when God's purpose finally unveils.
I don't want to just wait on the victory. I want to remain faithful in the valley.
When I can't see great victory, purpose or a ministry, I want to see God. I want to see him in the smallest, mundane, ordinary details of life.
Whatever our circumstance, we can still make an impact for the kingdom of God. Your life matters! You are still a part of the body of Christ. May we hold on to our faith and integrity even when all hell is coming up against it.
You are a daughter of the most High God. He hasn't forgotten you!
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