I love adventure. For me, scary, uncertain, on the brink kind of adventure is the best. Sky Diving — check. Scuba Diving — check. Trekking to the Uhuru peak of Mt Kilimanjaro — check. Determined to milk it for everything it was worth, I was the college back packer who stayed in Europe long after her classmates returned home. To save money, I hitch hiked by myself, after my Euro rail expired. In rural Norway, a sheep farmer driving a semi stopped. We had no ability to communicate except for hand gestures. What compelled me to get into his smelly truck?… a picture of his family on the dashboard and a rosary hanging from the mirror. Ok stupid I know, and something I hope and pray my daughter will never try. But it was a thrill. And I live to tell about it.
I’ve come to realize that I’m fickle when it comes to adventure. I love it when I plan it. But when it’s thrust upon me… well not so much.
If you love adventure, Moses is your guy. In my opinion, Moses has the most dramatic and powerful story in all of the Old Testament.
Moses’ sketchy start A Hebrew Israeli born in Egypt during the time when Pharaoh ordered Israeli newborn male babies to be drowned in the Nile, baby Moses was placed in a basket on the river by his parents. Pharaohs daughter, bathing nearby, longed to have a child, discovered the crying baby in the basket, and raised him as her own.
Moses, a reluctant leader When God called on Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery Moses threw up a flurry of excuses. You’ve got the wrong man, God. I’m a nobody. I don’t speak well. I’m not brave. Needless to say, Moses was as reluctant as they come.
Moses and the unwanted wilderness Still the job was thrust upon him. Can you imagine?! Moses had to lead the Israelites through the wilderness wandering for forty years, in search of the elusive promised land. Most of the time it was as if he was an unappreciated nanny forced to carry 600,000 whining brats across the wilderness. Moses tells God, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me” Numbers 11:14,15.
My wilderness Even though Ian’s recovery is not currently a crisis, he is still walking through a wilderness. And because I’m Ian’s mom and caretaker, I’m in the wilderness too. I spend more time than I care to admit, whining about wandering through the wilderness carrying one sometimes bratty 22 year old.
I can relate to Moses. I know I have felt burdened by my unwanted adventure, my wilderness time. Isn’t that true of any wilderness? A wilderness is certainly no oasis. In fact, by definition it is a remote environment devoid of all outward appeal, hope or comfort. It is a hostile, treacherous place where few would willingly go.
And yet… a wilderness time is as predictable as the setting sun. Every person at sometime or another finds himself wandering in the wilderness — a journey that could last days or decades. Who do you know who has been forced into a wilderness? Or perhaps that’s where you wander now. A wilderness is a time of hardship, where faith is tested, where waiting is inevitable, where fear hovers and where the future is unknown. Yuck.
I love this promise in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
I’ve heard it said that there is NEWS and there is TRUTH. And wisdom is NOT confusing the two. Your wilderness, the waiting, the fear, the uncertainty is news, details if you will about your circumstances. The scripture, the living word of God, states truth. Standing on the news is sinking sand. Truth is your only firm foundation.
From a human perspective, the wilderness is an unpleasant place. We naturally want comfort, health, and good fortune. But the same God who created the garden also created the wilderness. Let me be clear… the Lord doesn’t create cancer, or a devastating hurricane, or a car accident. But He does allow them to occur… and when they occur, His beloved sons and daughters are thrust into a wilderness.
SURVIVAL TIPS IN THE WILDERNESS — STOP, DROP, and ROLL
Ok God. I’m in a wilderness. Now what? I don’t want to be here. This adventure was not what I had in mind. Life was not supposed to be like this. And it’s hard. But for some reason, that I don’t understand, you’ve brought me here. Now what? In that place of confusion and questions, the Lord has impressed upon me some TRUTH about survival in the wilderness.
STOP, DROP and ROLL.
STOP — PERSPECTIVE
Step 1 is to STOP to gain perspective. This awful mess, these horrible circumstances, this barren wilderness, did not happen while God was napping. Perspective is indeed one of the gifts of the wilderness. But you often can’t see it right away. You have to step back.
Its as if the crucible of life burns off the impurities of selfishness and greed while at the same time revealing new priorities and grace. Precious understanding learned only in the wilderness includes truths like — life is fragile, stuff is just stuff, relationships matter, love is eternal, hope never dies.
I have a dear friend whose entire family is in the midst of their own ugly cancer wilderness. Circumstances are bleak and heartbreaking. But their testimony, evidence of their changed perspective, gives me goosebumps. To see their devoted love, support and new priorities, inspires me and everyone who knows them.
DROP — PROVISION
Step 2 is to DROP to your knees. Pray to God claiming His provision. Provision is part of His character. (2 Corinthians 9:8, Luke 12:24, Matthew 7:11, Philippians 4:19, Psalm 23:1, Psalm 34:10, Romans 8:32, Matthew 6:31,32) This is only a sampling… there are hundreds of verses to illustrate God’s provision.
Even though it may not feel like it…the TRUTH is, you are never alone. (1 John 5:4, Psalm 139:14, Exodus 14:14) Sometimes, when it is bleaker than bleak, the Lord’s provision is His presence.
When our situation was very desperate last year, many people would say to me… I don’t know how you do it. You know what… I didn’t know either. I remember telling myself, just breathe. Put one foot in front of the other. Honestly, I believe that is a picture of God’s provision. He gives you just enough. His grace is sufficient.
Sometimes, the Lord’s provision is just like Manna from heaven. Completely extra-ordinary. While the Israelites were hangry and whining to Moses, God caused manna (bread) to rain from heaven.
We’ve experienced manna in the wilderness too. Completely unexpected provision. Two months ago, we connected with a woman who came highly recommended for her neuro cognitive specialty. But, we were warned, she has a long waiting list and only accepts private pay. She agreed to meet with us once. Once turned into twice, then three times. She, also an artist, and Ian have a special bond. She asked if we would allow her to become even more involved outside of her normal scope, at no charge. This week she meets with Ian’s advisor and accommodations contact at UNM to design a do-able schedule for next semester. Completely outside of her normal work, she wants to do it. Melissa is our manna.
Sometimes, many times, the Lord’s provision comes to us through His body of Christ. This is especially sweet. God’s people are a tangible reminder of Him. God’s people, compelled to do what they can, feel privileged to help and are blessed in the process. Gods people become His provision. Win Win.
ROLL — PURPOSE
Step 3 for me is definitely the hardest. ROLL. While it’s reassuring to know the truth that there is purpose for the wilderness, it’s frustrating that we’re unable to completely understand it. And it’s in that place of confusion that God asks us to ROLL. To go with it. To trust Him. Because my “news” is not His truth, I have to trust Him.
I would venture to say that everyone who wants to grow as a Christian has to spend time in the wilderness. God does His best work in the wilderness. God deals with sin in the wilderness. God trains and raises up warriors in the wilderness. God breaks through strongholds in the wilderness. Surviving the wilderness strengthens faith, breeds character and produces humility.
It’s usually not a vast outdoor space, as we might imagine. It’s almost always an internal place, a location in our hearts and minds. It may be a time of illness or grief; it may be a season when a son or daughter brings heartache and concern; it may be a broken relationship that brings hurt beyond repair. Your wilderness could be any number of circumstances.
While I cannot describe the specifics of your personal wilderness, when you’re in it, you know it. You become a member of the club you never wanted to join. It’s a lonely, frustrating place and in the midst of it, the voices of doubt and the devil are often louder than the voice of God. You find yourself confused and wondering how to get out. You may even wonder, “God, I thought You led me here.”
I offer no easy answers. But God is still God. And God is still good. I have a friend who has a list of questions for God. I kind of like that approach. Add your wilderness questions to your list and just ROLL. I bet when you get to heaven you’ll be so overcome with gratitude and peace, your list will seem completely unnecessary.
In the meantime, lean on His truth for survival in the wilderness. Stop, Drop and Roll. Besides, if you stick close to Him, even though you’re in the wilderness, you can be sure that you’re on the narrow road and life is ahead.
Matthew 7: 13, 14 “13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell[a] is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.