Summary: We find periods in our lives where we feel if we have to overcome one more hurdle, Lord, I don’t know what I will do. I label these periods of times as ‘wilderness experiences’.
As we journey through this Christian walk, we will have moments of joy, moments of happiness, moments of sorrow, challenging moments, and even hard-pressing, neck-turning times. We find periods in our lives where we feel if we have to overcome one more hurdle, Lord, I don’t know what I will do. Am I right about it? You don’t have to tell me because I too have these periods of times which I label as ‘wilderness experiences’. Any person, situation or condition that interrupts the flow of joy and abundance within our lives represents a ‘wilderness experience’.
When thinking of the ‘wilderness experience’ what normally comes to mind is a barren place; a place of dryness and solitude. It is a place which presumes God’s absence. Dr. D. W. Ekstrand states:
“In a spiritual wilderness God feels far away, distant, absent, and unresponsive… faith feels doubtful or uncertain… we feel alone, vulnerable, lost, and unprotected… there is the fear of hopelessness and the unknown… and it’s the place where Satan resides.”
Question: (1) After an individual has committed his/her life unto the Lord and confesses to serve Him, why would God allow ‘wilderness experiences’ to arise in a Christian’s life”? (2) Why does God’s presence feel so distant during ‘wilderness experiences?’
To the contrary, the wilderness doesn’t evade God’s presence. Rather, it is a place of spiritual growth (that is faith growth). Sometimes there is no place to go in our faith but up - - especially after being knocked down to the bottom and filled with doubt and fear. Amen! Our ‘wilderness experiences’ often forces us to seek God’s wisdom and direction in prayer. Nine times out of ten, anyone who has gotten anywhere in God has gone through at least one wilderness experience. Remember the beggar at the gate called Beautiful in Acts 3:1-11. From birth, this beggar endured a ‘wilderness experience’ for he was down, out and hungry. Yet, he learned, after conversing with the servants of God (Peter and John) that in order to acquire God’s blessings, he had to be sitting in God’s timing. So it is today. We must be in the right place at the right time to reap God’s blessings. God’s blessings don’t always come to us easy. As a matter of fact, normally it comes with a cost, a price, a time of trying and testing. And though we may be in the right place at the right times, there will still be hurdle periods, ‘wilderness experiences’ in our lives that we must overcome in order to get to that right place and receive the God’s blessings.
No one is excluded from experiencing ‘times of wilderness.’ Look at Jesus in Luke 3:21; 4:1-2:
“21 One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where He was tempted by the devil for forty days...”
Now if God will lead His One and Only Begotten Son into the wilderness, why would God not lead His peculiar, chosen children into the wilderness? Remember, God’s word is the ‘same yesterday, today, and forevermore.’ In other words, God wants the very best for us as He did for Christ Jesus.
“The Lord's anger was kindled against Israel and He made them wander in the wilderness for forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was dead” (Numbers 32:13).
6 “The Israelites had traveled in the wilderness for forty years
until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died.
For they had disobeyed the LORD,
and the LORD vowed He would not let them enter the land he had sworn to give us
--a land flowing with milk and honey”
The Bible speaks about, hurdles, impossibilities for man that become magnificent opportunities for God. I like to label these hurdles, impossibilities as life’s ‘wilderness experiences’. So for a few moments, let address the subject: Overcoming Your Wilderness Experiences.
We all have, or had, and definitely will have some ‘wilderness experiences’ that we must bear; we must endure. We can’t hide or escape from them. Author Eugene Ogu defined wilderness times as,
“That obstacle, barrier, impediment, hindrance or stumbling block that stands in your way to success, greatness, victory, or that miracle you have believed God for all these while. It is that problem that has vowed not to allow you to serve the Lord freely.”
Don’t be fooled and think because you now come to church and worship God that your ‘wilderness experiences’ days are over. Some are but others are on the way. Because the Bible declares, in this world, we will have ‘wilderness experiences’ that we will endure. Some of you may be facing them in your life right now. But what we must learn Church is that, God uses our wilderness experiences to refine us into the person He predestined us to be (Rom 8:29, Phil 3:21). Also, the wilderness is not the end of the story, because the Scripture says that God always brings His people out of the wilderness into the Promised Land. However, the arrival to our ‘Promise Land’ is solely based on God’s time, and His terms (which is our obedience to the Word of God).