Following in the footsteps of Jesus is not an easy path. There are beautiful mountaintops and dark valleys, both which hold rich and beautiful emotional moments. We find fortitude in the valleys and learn to rely more on God. We find our voice of praise on the mountaintops and shine brightly the glory of God. We hear God the best in these two places because they push us and pull us into His presence.
There is one more place Jesus leads us and it is in this place where the enemy has the greatest access to us: the wilderness. In this space, the enemy has singular focus on his goal…pulling us away from God. In the wilderness is where we find our greatest tests because we have to fight the enemy with what we know to be true about God from His Word. The wilderness isn’t tears soaked cheeks or elated eyes, the wilderness is a dry throat and a tired body. In the wilderness there is no path and yet, there is radical change and deeper faith in store.
Matthew and Luke both tell us the story of Jesus in the wilderness in chapter 4 of each book. I believe every true follower of Jesus will have at least one wilderness experience in their life because we see God use a wilderness experience many times throughout the Word. So when we find ourselves in this dry space, there are some important things to remember.
1) The wilderness isn’t punishment. In both accounts of Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus was led there by the Holy Spirit. The wilderness happens after the call and before the fulfilment to prepare us! The wilderness is the prep area and the launch pad for the promise.
2) The wilderness strengthens our faith. The wilderness is a time of testing and temptation where we see more easily those places we are strong and weak in our faith. We have to draw on our knowledge of God and use it as a weapon against the enemy in every area of our lives: physically (Matt 4:2-4), emotionally (Matt 4:5-7) and spiritually (Matt 4:8-10).
3) The wilderness is temporary, so use it. The wilderness is the space to go deeper and really lock yourself into your faith and your call. It is in the wilderness where we get more single-minded about our vision and more solid in our foundation.
Let’s face it, the wilderness is hard. It’s never a place people jump up and down celebrating and yet, I really believe that’s exactly what we should do because it is in this space where God gets us ready. That’s exciting!! God isn’t absent in the wilderness, He’s training you. Get excited about that and lean in so that you are ready when He launches you into the calling on your life for the next season. Between the call and the fulfillment there is the wilderness, that’s just the way of Jesus.