Wilderness

Picture the wilderness. Barren, brown, and lifeless landscapes. Is it a dramatic Hollywood film or a National Geographic pictorial essay? Long-robed nomads with kerchief masks to shield their faces from the dusty desert winds. Or a personal experience?  Five years old and lost at the county fair or the mall—so terrified that you might as well have been in the middle of nowhere, abandoned and alone.

All scary and bleak.

But sometimes the wilderness is inside—an emotional place so dry and sparse that our very souls seem to be fading away. A place so desolate that there is nowhere to turn for relief—because everywhere we look, it’s the same brown and barren lifelessness. The loss of a job...or enduring a job that steals the joy out of life. The loss of a loved one. Unanswered questions about childbearing...or child rearing. A move that didn’t work out the way we planned. A broken relationship for which there seems no hope.

Just as Jesus was famished when he emerged from the wilderness, our emotional wilderness experiences leave us exhausted and hungry. Hungry for new or restored relationships. Hungry for salve to soothe a wounded heart. Hungry for peace when everything and everyone around us seems determined to prolong war. Hungry for an answer.

Yes, we know. When we pray, there is always an answer. Sometimes, the answer is “yes.” Sometimes, it’s “no.” Sometimes, “wait.”  And when we are in a good place, any answer will do, because God is always good. Always. We can trust Him. We can depend on Him. Yes, we know.

But, in the wilderness. Ah, in the wilderness, everything is different. We want to hear “yes.” We want the explanation. We want a solution. We want relief.

Both “no” and “wait” are just this side of unbearable.

But sometimes, especially in the wilderness, the answer is not This is why..., or This is when..., or This will be....

The answer is Jesus.

What we are truly searching for is not a new job or a whole family or peace in our world. The truth is that we live in a broken world, in a god-forsaken wilderness. And Jesus is the only One who can meet all of our needs simply and miraculously because of who He is. And, He knows that, for some of us, the wilderness is the only place where we will stop and look for Him.

The wilderness is barren, brown and lifeless, scary and bleak—both the geographical, out there in the vast expanse of the unknown, and the emotional, out there where the reality of daily living can be empty and hopeless. And Jesus never promised relief from our wilderness. He never promised that all of the pain would be healed or all of the plans revealed.

But He did promise that He would be with us and that He would answer when we call. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

- Nancy Wolfe