Thursday April 7, 2011
In our bible study on Tuesday night we got into a discussion on being in the wilderness. When asked how many had recently experienced the wilderness, all hands were raised. We then began to look at some factors that contribute to the wilderness experience. It is never really enjoyable to experience the wilderness unless you are a mountain man or woman (that’s a joke). And for the mountain man/woman, his or her wilderness would probably be in the city.
I know from reading that Jesus was baptized by John and then went out into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights and was tempted by satan. In every wilderness experience we face, is there a specific truth or insight that we need to grasp before the experience ends? And what happens when we are in the wilderness and before the experience ends, another wilderness trial begins to hit us and seems to bury us even more than before? Are there wilderness experiences that have no specific truth that God is trying to teach us?
It was a night filled with more questions than answers. Oh, I imagine that we could have answered the questions with super spiritual truths, but all who are in the class are mature Christians and we truly wanted to look at this area that has and is hitting each and everyone of us. We wanted to truly grasp the significance of wilderness experiences we face and seek to learn all we can from these experiences so that our faith and trust can be multiplied for His glory.
As you read this jlog, I encourage you to take some or all of these questions and make comment for our group so that we can gain from your wisdom as you have had your own wilderness experiences. Thank you so much for your input in advance.
Sometimes the journey causes us to stop and think and question before we take another step.
It seems to me that one of the “characteristics” of the wilderness journey is this: the entry into the wilderness is a crisis of faith. Take that word ‘crisis’ in a positive sense, as if something in a person’s life, or the life of a nation (the Hebrews in Egypt perhaps) is at a point in the road where something needs to happen, but that something isn’t entirely clear. The wilderness represents the place where attributes of life–friends and family, culture and commitments, a daily string of events we call “my life” or “our world” is left behind, and we go there with ourselves, and a muddy notion of a “promise”, or at least an expectation that there’s something that will happen. The hope, at least the hope offered by the testimony of scripture, is that God is there and we hope to hear his voice. That may not happen right away. It may not happen for some time.
The wilderness is not so much a separation from God as a separation of everything that gets in the way of listening to God. This season of Lent is structured around wilderness experiences, the Hebrews wandering in Sinai, and Jesus’ retreat to the desert before he begins his ministry. Listen to the Israelites complain about where their daily sustenance will come from. They honestly think they are going to die, but God nonetheless provides for them, whether they recognize it or not. One can only imagine that Jesus was tempted by Satan before he ever got to the wilderness, but until then could he see clearly the path he must follow? The ministry he proceeds to conduct after that experience suggests that, until then, he could not. When we cannot, we are at the edge of the wilderness; and we enter therein when we leave the comfort of the familar and trade it for the simple and spare environs of the desert world.
This is not to be confused with living “off the grid”. It is a journey with a beginning and an end. The end comes when it becomes clear that “going back” is not an option, at least not one that most people would choose.
I love the question posed by this jlog. I’ve been thinking about it some before I responded. I think our tendency is to immediately assume or interpret the wilderness as a trial – something we need to survive. Growing up in Arizona we are taught survival skills should we unfortunately find ourselves stranded in the middle of the barren, hot, arid environment of the desert. I think I remember hearing that the sheer temperature (think 120 degrees +) can kill you in a matter of hours if you don’t immediately take the proper precautions – always have water, seek shade, cover your skin…the list goes on because desert survival is an extreme challenge.
But, what I thought about in your reference to Jesus’ time in the wilderness was this – The description in Matthew says that He spent 40 days/nights in the wilderness BEFORE being tempted by satan. He fasted during that time – a way of seeking and relying solely on God. And what other way could one survive in the wilderness! I think what this example says to me is, perhaps when we are drawn to the wilderness God doesn’t have us in a place of trial or hardship, but a place of preparation. He is removing the “luxuries” we are blessed to have in our daily lives in order to remind us that He is the ultimate provider. So, when we leave the wilderness we are in a position to adequately face the trials and temptations placed before us by immediately turning to Him and resting assured in His truth and provision.
After the wilderness experience there is usually an explosion of the power of God it cud be regarded as a form of preparation