There are two types of wilderness experiences:
1.) God will take you from one place to another, and sometimes for your own safety. It is a time to prepare you for a life God wants you to live, or even for a task.
2.) God takes you into the wilderness because of rebellion against Him. If one is not willing to follow His plan, His will, or listen to His instruction, or if one concludes that He is not needed or necessary to accomplish anything. One will also be driven into the wilderness when it is perceived that God has asked to do what is not possible (for example, staying in a marriage or a job that is extremely difficult). He has to remind us that He is the one who provides for all of us and that nothing is impossible.
Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”
The wilderness, as referenced in Scripture, was a learning experience:
- The instruction of Moses in leading his people
- John the Baptist’s learning and preparation
- Jesus in the wilderness when being tempted by Satan
- David in the caves in the wilderness (evidenced by many Psalms that he wrote of his experiences)
If only I had a traveler’s lodging place
in the wilderness,
I would abandon my people
and depart from them,
for they are all adulterers,
a solemn assembly of treacherous people.
13 When the dragon saw that he had been thrown to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male. 14 The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent’s presence to her place in the wilderness, where she was fed for a time, times, and half a time. 15 From his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away in a torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman: the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon had spewed from his mouth.
A wilderness experience is far from enjoyable, but it can be for our protection from harm in the midst of the learning experience.
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.” 18 So He led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation.
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, because Joseph had made the Israelites swear a solemn oath, saying, “God will certainly come to your aid; then you must take my bones with you from this place.”
20 They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people.
Wilderness experiences are seldom seen as short cuts. God is orchestrating every experience, and He’s not in a hurry. He’s not in a hurry because there is still a great deal of learning that must take place spiritually. The flesh is always the deterrent in the learning process, for it makes surrendering to this world very inviting.
“Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The nation of Israel was not prepared for battle (they were living as slaves), and they were only used to serving for task masters. They had to learn how to love God, who loved them, for they had heard the stories from their fathers about God (Exodus 13:19), yet, they had to experience Him for themselves. In the same way, new believers in Christ have to continue to learn about God and who He is for them personally. The learning needs to go beyond just hearing about God and His Word. There must be a willingness to follow Him and trust in His ongoing presence.
The wilderness experience of Israel brought about the development of a nation, even though their learning experience was still ongoing. Our wilderness experiences challenge each of us to be receptive to His instruction and be the best that we can be, and He will provide direction for us. We may not have all of the details as to when or how we will come out of the wilderness, but we should always remember that God is present throughout the experience.