We can all agree that life is hard. People are hurting. There seems to be conflict, strife, and anger at every turn. Do you feel it too? But, Jesus never guaranteed us a pain-free, easy existence. He actually guaranteed that we would have trouble in this world. He charged us to take heart because He had overcome the world. He shared that with us to bring us peace.
Boy, do we need His peace. Everywhere I look, I see loss and pain and grief.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who has suffered the loss of multiple babies. Her pain and hopelessness are crushing. No amount of words could make it better or make sense of it. All I could do was give her Jesus. I prayed with her. I declared God’s promises over her. I stood in the gap for her. I am having faith for her when hers is weak.
There’s another friend who is trying to steward her single season well. We talked on the phone for hours. She shared her doubts and frustrations and desires. I understood all too well because my singleness has lasted longer than I imagined. I shared how I’ve tried to navigate this season with gratitude and intentionality. I told her about my highs and lows. I encouraged her with God’s truth and reminded her of His character and nature. I gave her Jesus.
Then, there’s me. My life has been a series of hard season after hard season after hard season. So much grief and disappointment. I’m honestly exhausted from it all. I’ve struggled through some health battles, and even as I write this, I’m recovering from a car accident. It’s a sad and stressful situation. I’m trying to have perspective and believe that the Lord will provide, but it’s not easy. Even after more than twenty years of following Jesus, holding onto hope is still not the easiest thing.
All of these situations are extremely different. The pain is unique, but I’ve learned that loss is loss. Hurt is hurt. When we are struggling to hold onto hope, we’re all on the same field. This field is a wilderness of sorts. It can be dry, confusing, and filled with anguish.
Whenever I think about a wilderness, I think about the Israelites’ story in the book of Exodus. I think about how they got to the wilderness and why their journey lasted forty years when it should have only taken eleven days. Those forty years were filled with them complaining, whining, criticizing, and spreading nothing but doubt and dissension. They had literally seen the goodness of God. They had repeatedly watched Him perform miracles of provision and deliverance. (Hello, dry path through the Red Sea, manna from heaven, and water from a rock.) And yet, they were pros at forgetting.
I am an Israelite more often than I care to admit. I forget all the ways God has guided me and come through for me. I easily lose hope. But I’m believing that He will strengthen my faith and surround me with those who can stand in the gap until then.
I’m remembering that the Israelites were God’s chosen people. And now, so are we. We are His beloved daughters.
A spiritual wilderness is much like a physical wilderness: vast, barren, and desolate. Very few things grow there, let alone thrive. But, when God is involved, everything changes. He is life and abundance and hope fulfilled. He is the One who brings provision in the darkest of situations; He makes a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The wilderness was not a punishment, but an invitation. God wanted the Israelites to learn to rely on Him, trust Him, hear, follow, and continually remember Him. Yes, it was an invitation to know God fully.
Who doesn’t love an invitation? An invitation lets someone know that their presence is wanted and valued. Invitations are intentional and purposeful. It’s beautiful to be on the receiving end of one. The Lord always extends the sweetest invitations. He wants us. He desires us. He delights in us. He even likes us. No matter our sin or season or trial, God longs for nothing more than to be near to us.
Hard seasons will continue to come and go. We can’t change that. But, we can choose to have the Lord’s perspective and allow Him to do a work in us that can only happen in the wilderness. This is when we get to build a history of trust, dependence, faith, and hope in Him.
We’re all growing in our relationship with God. I’m grateful that He is gracious, compassionate, and oh so patient with us. Even when we are faithless, He is faithful. He is our firm foundation when life goes awry.
Our heavy hearts are safe in God’s hands. Our hope is safe in His hands.
If you’re in a difficult season and finding it hard to hold onto hope, I’d love to hope for you. I’d love to pray for you!