In the Wilderness

Photo 150126889 / Pikes Peak © Sherri Brown | Dreamstime.com

The wilderness. 

Scripturally speaking, the wilderness is a place we often seek to get through, rather than camp there. 

Moses and the children of Israel wandered forty years there because they lacked the faith to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:31).

Hagar ended up there twice, once when escaping Sarai’s abuse and once when she and Ishmael were cast out to preserve Isaac’s place as the child of promise (Genesis 16, Genesis 21:8-21).

Jesus, led by the Holy Spirt, went there for testing before He got on with His ministry (Matthew 4:1).

I was challenged to rethink my perspective of the wilderness when I took my mom to church last Sunday. Her pastor mentioned that when we think of wilderness, we usually think of desert. Yet, when she Googled wilderness, she ended up with pictures of the Rockies. 

Then it dawned on me. 

When I go on vacation, my husband and I often travel to the wilderness. Hitting every national park is on my bucket list. I love the physical challenge of a good hike, the breath-taking views, and, fingers crossed, wildlife sightings. 

Could God have another purpose in the wilderness than the testing I’ve been taught? 

Well, like a good Bible scholar, I did my homework. 

My trusty NIV does indeed refer to the wilderness as desert. Barren and rocky. 

But—I’ve lived in the desert too. Honestly, it was tough coming back to Texas after living there.

Amazing sunsets. Flowering cacti. Lots of sunshine. We loved it.  

So, here are my questions:

Did Israel wander in the wilderness forty years so that the children of those who lacked faith could get to know their God enough to trust and obey Him and enter the Promised Land?

Both of Hagar’s wilderness experiences included divine encounters. Was that the point? One-on-one time with the Lord away from the distractions of civilization?

Jesus Himself depended on God for provision in the face of direct attacks from the enemy. I need those lessons too. 

Next time you head out into the great outdoors, here are a few things to consider:

1. What can you learn about God from the things you see?

2. What perspective does this piece of wilderness offer? (Ocean, mountain, prairie, etc.)

3. What word does God have for you here?

I recently hiked Pikes Peak (no snow). Above the tree line, there was rock. Lots of it. 

But there were also wildflowers. 

And cute cuddly animals, marmots and pikas, even at the highest elevations.

What treasures are hidden in your wilderness? God awaits you there.

Activities:

What’s your favorite outdoorsy place? Why?

If you aren’t outdoorsy, what’s holding you back?

Plan an outing. The beach counts. If you live in Texas, hang on. Fall is coming.