Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
For the past few months I have been going through one of the most intensely difficult times of my life. The level of spiritual warfare has been incredible. Not that long ago my wife commented that she has watched me become progressively “sadder, and sadder, and sadder.” In short, 2017 has been really bad. This period of extreme spiritual dryness fostered spiritual insight previously unseen in yesterdays’ Old Testament reading (from my Book of Common Prayer app).
The rather lifeless journey I’ve recently experienced seemed rather purposeless. I wondered where God was, and what He was up to. I experienced many, successive long-dark-nights of the soul. Only after the dawn began to break did the Lord begin revealing to me the real purpose of my wilderness wanderings. I needed to be humbled.
One of the most difficult aspects of this experience was my own attempt to carry burdens well beyond my own ability to bear. I apparently thought God needed assistance in the day-to-day operation of events. Rather than praying about everything, worrying about nothing (Phil 4), I worried about everything, and prayed about nothing. Every problem with which I was presented I ventured to solve with no help other than my own education and experience (both of which of infinitesimally small compared to God’s). The result? I came face-to-face with who I really am. I’m a creature who believed he was more Creator. I crashed hard.
The Lord lead me and let me go through the wilderness for my good. He showed me the end of myself being much closer than I had originally thought. I was shown in remarkably clear ways that I’m not only limited, but that I’m utterly dependent. Despite my wrong thinking to the contrary, I had no full power or control over anything. In other words, I was humbled.
The Lord showed me that I was hungry for sustenance this world could never provide. I was trying to live on my own ability, but man cannot do so. Man lives on the every word that comes from the mouth of God. The Lord used my wilderness to show me what was really residing in my heart. He showed me who I really am by not only putting me in intense pressure situations, but leaving me there. He forced me to see myself as He sees me. And, I didn’t love the vision given.
Yet, the Lord is gracious. The purpose of the wilderness is not humiliation, but to cultivate humility and bring reconciliation. The wilderness is a necessary part of the journey to the Promised Land. Painful? Yes. Undoubtedly painful. But, necessary. Without holiness, not man can see the Lord. The wilderness is one of the Lord’s means to grow us in holiness.
If you are walking through the wilderness now, take heart. Be encouraged. You are are being humbled and tested. Put another way, you are being disciplined. And, every good father disicplines his son. God, our good Father, disciplines us towards his image for His glory and our good. Remember also that the Promised Land is coming.