Wilderness. Dry. Barren. Dark. Scary. Tiring. We all face wildernesses in our lives from time to time. The idea of a wilderness can be summed up as a long stretch of time in which we feel lost, hopeless, confused, frazzled or all of the above. But here's the tricky thing about the wilderness. For some reason, we have come to believe the source of the wilderness is one of two things: (1) God placing us there as a consequence for sin in our lives or (2) Satan and his minions driving us there to destroy us. And while I do not doubt that both of those may occasionally be true, I feel it's necessary to inform you of a third possibility--God puts us there to teach us and help us grow.
The Bible tells us that sometimes God leads us into the wilderness, not because of sin, but because He has a plan. For example, when He led the children of Israel out of Egypt, He took them the long way around, through the wilderness.
And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. - Exodus 13:17-18
God led them into the wilderness, and it was there that they learned many things, including how to trust God (though admittedly, it was a LONG lesson). But the point is that God led them. The enemy didn't trick them into going that way. The people didn't choose the path. God had a plan, and that plan involved the wilderness.
We see the same lesson in Matthew 4:1.
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Say what now? Why would God lead His own Son into the wilderness? Why would He put Him in the position to be tempted of Satan? Why would He insist that Jesus fast for forty days? God had His reasons, and those plans could only be accomplished in the wilderness.
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty (I have no idea where that saying comes from). We love it when life is great, don't we? All is well when there's money in the bank, food on the table, love in our marriage, obedience from our children, health in our bodies, and so on. But is there growth? Aren't we more prone to go it alone and forget God when the going is good? However, when times are tough, and we can't find answers, our troubles drive us to the Lord. In Him, we find strength. During the darkest times in our lives, we discover just how brightly the truth of God's Word can shine. Yes, it is in the wilderness that we find out just how much we need God.
Perhaps you're painfully familiar with the wilderness. Maybe you've been there for months or even years, and you're starting to grow bitter and weary. Weary of the journey. Fatigued from the battles. Discouraged by your lack of progress. May I remind you that many times the wilderness is a blessing, not a curse? It is an indication that God is working on you, molding you into what He wants you to be. It is a reminder, too, that you are not alone, for God not only leads us into the wilderness; He also guides us through it. He walks with us every step of the way, giving us the strength to complete the journey.
Why the wilderness? Because God has something beautiful planned for you, and the wilderness is His staging ground. Hold on tight! God is about to do something greater than you could ever imagine, and when you see what He has in store for you, you'll look back at your time in the wilderness, smile, and whisper, "It was worth every mile!"