I’ve decided to change the title of this blog mini-series to “Wondering in the Wilderness” because that’s what we tend to do upon finding ourselves in desolate territory—wonder what happened to God and his promises. It is this very tendency toward doubt that God is trying to kill off from our lives.
Our heavenly Father never intends a wilderness to be a destination. It is simply a territory that we must pass through on the way to a promised land, flowing with milk and honey. But for us to go from desolate isolation to sweet fullness, something must die. That something is our unbelief.
By design the wilderness is constructed as a test our faith. How will we respond when we see fierce giants, when we lack water, when life is dull and mundane, or when we don’t like the direction our leaders are going? Yes, God wants to test and prove (establish) our faith! Our ability to trust Him is that important. We, however, often have our own agendas, thereby finding ourselves completely ignorant of God’s intended purposes. In such cases, we prolong our wilderness experience as we fail to align ourselves with His plans and purposes.
After their exodus from bondage in Egypt, the nation of Israel should have spent about two weeks crossing the desert into the promised land of Canaan. In the end that journey took 40 years (over 1000 times as long as intended) as an entire generation of unbelieving Israelites died in the wilderness. Do we see it? God designed the wilderness as a place for unbelief to die.
Deliverance and faith aren’t just about heaven! Like that generation of wilderness Israelites, many of us suffer from unbelief in the form of misplaced trust. We have this uncanny tendency to only trust what we can see or think we clearly understand. For them it was a golden calf and the consistent provision of Egypt. We tend to put our confidence in ourselves, our bank accounts, the security of our jobs, friends or family, etc.
Make no doubt about it—misplaced trust is unbelief clothed in idolatry, and it surely leads to spiritual desolation. In other words, the dryness of our external wilderness environment quickly infiltrates our internal spiritual state. If, however, we learn to trust God in the wilderness, our hearts are well-watered regardless of what’s going on around us.
“The Lord says,
‘I will put a curse on people
who trust in mere human beings,
who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,
and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.
They will be like a shrub in the desert.
They will not experience good things even when they happen.
It will be as though they were growing in the desert,
in a salt land where no one can live.
My blessing is on those people who trust in me,
who put their confidence in me.
They will be like a tree planted near a stream
whose roots spread out toward the water.
It has nothing to fear when the heat comes.
Its leaves are always green.
It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought.
It does not stop bearing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NET)