“In this wilderness they shall be consumed.”
Numbers 14: 35
“Wandering In a Wilderness”
“Most people’s wilderness is inside them, not outside.”
Has there been a time in my life when I felt as though I was wandering in a wilderness?
What is a wilderness in my life?
“They call you barren
Who, unseeing, gaze upon you.
Yet! Time’s most secret thoughts,
The jewels of the ages
Are buried in your breast
As in your loneliness you lie
Beneath the everlasting heights.”
“Cherish your wilderness.”
Several weeks ago, I watched a program about Death Valley, the lowest, driest, and hottest place in the United States. Temperatures in this desert wilderness can be as high as 130º during the summer months. The narrator of the program noted that those brave enough to come to the valley to hike or explore must adhere to strict rules if they plan on surviving in elements so harsh. He mentioned that several people had died after losing their way and running out of water and food, wandering around in a wilderness, as the narrator pointed out, which is dangerous indeed.
So far, in our study in the book of Numbers, we have found out that negativity, grumbling and rebellion have dire consequences. As we learned, after a group of Israelite spies scouted out the Promised Land and only two of them came back with anything good to say about the land “flowing with milk and honey,” God decided to grant the people their wish. A wish He had heard them repeat over and over again, that they “die in the wilderness.” So, God told all His children that, “the number of the days in which you spied out the land of Canaan, even forty days, for each day a year shall you bear and suffer for your iniquities, even for forty years” (Numbers 14: 34, Amplified). This is exactly how long they lived in the wilderness – 40 years!
Just imagine for a minute that you were one of the women in this crowd of over a million men, women and children. You had been filled with excitement because soon the desolate journey from Egypt to Canaan would be over. What a relief!
However, right on the border, just before crossing the Jordan River, you were informed you and your family were headed back to the desert. Not for a day or for a year – but instead, for 40 years. Talk about disappointment. Ernest Reeves describes disappointment this way: “Rivers without water, clouds without moisture, roses without fragrance, honey without sweetness, homes without love, life without hope.” I’ll add one more thing to his list, “Egypt without Canaan.”
Left in a desert to wander. Left in a desert to suffer. Left in a desert to die. The wilderness had won! The wilderness had swallowed hope and replaced it with despair.
And I ask you, has the wilderness, whatever that wilderness is in your life, torn your hope to shreds leaving you desolate and lost in the desert today?
So many of you, I know, are in a desperate wilderness in your lives. I know because I read every one of your e-mails. I hear the pain. I feel the sorrow. And I can tell there’s a lot of desperation in the desert right now. The wilderness is winning in many lives which are filled with fear, hopelessness, and desperation.
But at this very moment, when you may feel as though the wilderness has you encased in a tomb of problems, I am encouraged by the words of Bayle Roche, “Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom.” This means that your desert disappointments and mine can teach us something. We have lessons to learn in the wilderness when we are disappointed. And over the next few days, we will take a look at these lessons which God has for us when we end up wandering lost in a desert experience of our own.
We are going to learn from our disappointment in the desert not to “decry” this experience but to benefit from it. We’ll find out that even though it’s tough to watch, “The Sun Still Shines on Everyone – Good and Evil.” And it is my prayer you and I will develop the “Vision of the Valiant.” And finally, we’ll look at what God wanted from His children before they went into Canaan – “Unity Not Uniformity.”
The Australian writer, Veronica Brady, penned these words, describing wilderness experiences in our lives: “Over the frontier, in the wilderness,
it can seem as if the world is falling to pieces; and yet the call keeps coming, a call, I think, which is not so much to power as to community with all those others who are wounded, whose worlds or lives also seem to be falling apart, yet who are actually – we must believe – giving birth to something new.”
This is my prayer that as we wander through the wilderness, along with God’s chosen children, we will find that although they had disobeyed and defamed God’s name, even during the 40 years of wandering, God never left His misguided kids. He stayed with them – right in the wilderness. He protected them. He fed them. And most of all, He never stopped loving them. He promises to do the same for you and me, no matter how lost we may feel stumbling around in the barren landscape of our own desert wilderness.
“This only do I ask of Thy extreme kindness.
That Thou convert me wholly to Thee
And Thou allow nothing to prevent me from
wending my way to Thee.”
Lost and Found
“I missed Him when the sun began to bend;
I found Him not when I had lost His rim;
With many tears I went in search of Him,
Climbing high mountains which did still ascend,
And gave me echoes when I called my friend;
Through cities vast and channel-houses grim,
And high cathedrals where the light was dim,
Through books and arts and works without an end,
But found Him not – the friend whom I had lost.
And yet I found Him – as I found the lark,
A sound in fields I heard but could not mark;
I found Him nearest when I missed Him most;
I found Him in my heart, a life in frost,
A light I knew not till my soul was dark.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
(Available May 2009)