I would characterize what many are facing right now as a wilderness or desert journey. The question most people have when they’re led into a desert experience is why. But take heart; God will use our experiences here to cause this desert season to blossom like a rose. For in the desert the Father speaks and awakens our hearts to hear. In fact, the word for “desert” in Hebrew means “the place of speaking.”
There are ten named wildernesses in the desert wanderings of the Israelites. Every Christian will most likely go through eight of them in their lifetime. And I feel as though the one we’ve entered in this season is the wilderness of Shur.
“Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea into the Wilderness of Shur. For three days they trekked through the wilderness without finding water.”Exodus 15:22
Shur is a Hebrew word that means “a wall,” “hemmed in,” or “limited.” God led them along a wall. They could not escape that desert. In the same way, none of us are escaping the wilderness of the coronavirus right now. Not one! We are in a place of restriction and limitation that’s making it impossible to move forward without a miracle!
We’re up against a wall like the Hebrews were. They had followed the cloud to a place of limitation. This was not because of their rebellion or disobedience. It was because of God’s plan to trade their limitation for his limitless grace, mercy, love, and power. They needed to be in that place for their advance, and so do we. Limitations are God’s veiled opportunities for his miracle provisions. There is a realm of plenty just beyond our limitations. The end of your strength is the beginning of his. You could say it this way: the wilderness is simply a place in life that you don’t want to be. But it’s the place where the God of glory meets with the barren soul, showing us the deepest lessons of our life.
Here are five of those lessons that we can learn from our wilderness experiences:
1. After a new revelation, a new test will often follow.
Take Jesus, for instance. No sooner had he heard the heavenly voice proclaim, “My Son, you are my beloved one” (Luke 3:21–22), then he was led into the wilderness to face the temptation of Satan. And when there, it was the Word of God that gave him his breakthrough.
It’s in this land of limitation that our sonship is proven. This is your time to crawl up on God’s lap and find that you are truly his child. Nothing will harm you when you find your place there, seated with him on his throne in the heavenly places.
2. Great problems often follow great victories.
After the parting of a sea, there’s usually a desert. The Israelites had just been delivered from their enemy at the Red Sea and were on their way to the promised land when, three days in, they experienced a shortage of water.
After the dance of victory, we now see them bitter and complaining. At times we assume that a continual experience of victory is the norm when in fact, victory is often sandwiched between the lessons we learn from our difficulties.
3. Testing comes before resting.
When we turn our faces to Christ in the midst of pain and impossibility, Christlike character is formed within us. Miracles are meant to do more than fascinate our soul; they’re meant to convince us that God’s faithfulness will not fail when the dry desert days come. The Israelites knew that God was powerful, but they did not yet know that he was good. Christians throughout the ages have discovered that God will turn everything into good if we will but love him through the difficulties of life.
4. In the midst of our difficulties God designs tests that teach us his ways.
The Israelites had made a three-day trek into the wilderness when they ran out of water. So when they saw the waters of Marah they must have been elated. But they soon became upset when they found that it was bitter and undrinkable. And so they named it Marah, which means “bitter,” “grief,” or “calamity,” after the way they were feeling. They were all dry, dusty, and upset. How could this happen?
“So the people vented their anger and grumbled against Moses and said, ‘What are we to drink?’”Exodus 15:24
The Hebrews cried out to Moses for water, but not to God. The same God that can handle the Red Sea can handle deserts and drought. He can take the bitter waters of Marah and make them sweet. In the same vein, we too can experience a great breakthrough and then three days later be griping about the way leadership has led us wrong. Instead we need to take our problem to the Father who can right all wrongs.
5. We can shorten the wilderness by allowing God’s purpose to be fulfilled in it.
The sooner we learn the lesson of Shur, the sooner we will be promoted and given the grace to move out. Although we see the wilderness as the outside circumstances around us, it’s the wilderness within us that the Lord is really after. We must go heart deep. The beginning of your miracle is even now at work inside you.
So, I ask you this question: what is it that the Lord is doing in you right now? I believe the Lord has something personal he’s doing in every life. Are you anchored to hope? Hope in God is not a wishful fantasy. Rather, our hope is an anchor that has gone up and inside the veil and into glory where Christ is seated on the throne. Christ himself is the anchor of our soul, both sure and steadfast.
And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time—an unshakable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. (Hebrews 6:18–19)
In the midst of all of this chaos, I have had some of my best sleep in years. As a lover of God, I came to realize that we are up against a wall, and all we can do is run into his heart for safety!
“The character of God is a tower of strength, for the lovers of God delight to run into his heart…”Proverbs 18:10 TPT
Notice that it’s God’s character that is our tower of strength. “Tower of strength” is the Hebrew word Migdal. It has a homonym that can be translated “bed of flowers.” When his character is perfected in us, it becomes like a bed of flowers: fragrant and peaceful. A beautiful resting place for our souls.
The other morning as I awoke, I was singing this song:
“You are our hearts’ desire. Come as our healer. Shout your name over us . . . . No one wants to make things right more than you. Have it your way. Do what you long to do. I still believe that anything can happen when you move. So would you come and move here!” (Lyrics from “Shout Your Name,” by Jon Thurlow)
This is what God is saying to you right now. He’s asking for you to believe that he’s your healer and your redeemer, and that he’s awakening your heart during this difficult season to trust his love for you. May your heart be awakened!
“So stand firm in me until I have become your confidence. Set your eyes upon me, and don’t be worried about your future and your calling, for I am the God who begins and completes, the Alpha and the Omega. Lean into me and lean into my Word and find all that you need. The rest I bring will be sweet to your soul. Let me arrange your priorities and remove your distractions. Your true life is discovered when you lean into me. Weakness disappears and worries vanish when you lean into me. And I will cause my strength to overshadow you, and it will give you the courage and discipline to move ahead. I have purposes for you that embrace eternity, and I have now begun to hasten those purposes to completion. For I have chosen you before time began to live in the fullness of my Spirit.
“Surrender to me this day and do not hinder my Spirit’s work to make you into the image of my Son, and you will see that I will perform miracles for you and in you. Amen!”