I remember when I had been a Christian for a few years hearing a message that troubled me.
A woman shared a testimonial type message in which she began by sharing about the wonderful blessings and changes she had experienced as a new Christian...All that part was fine, I loved hearing about the positive, life-changing stuff similar to my own experience!
However the message then suddenly changed to a ‘warning’. The woman began to speak about her life-changing experience, that to me at that time, seemed far from positive. She spoke about a major life-changing event she had no control over that changed almost everything for her, except her faith in Jesus.
This stranger spoke about this challenge as a ‘sudden blow’ like a 'king hit' that impacted her so much she felt as if she had been knocked out and left laying on the floor! She spoke about this challenge as being the most difficult thing she'd ever experienced in her life. A challenge that God had allowed, but one He was still helping her through. This woman continued to speak about her life as both incredibly blessed, yet also marked by pain enabling her to minister to others. She then went on to ‘warn’ listeners to be ready for such an experience…of being suddenly hit by a hard blow that would change everything and leave you changed forever!
This stranger spoke about her life as one that by staying close to Jesus continued to bloom in the wilderness.
Her message hit a raw nerve with me, and while I didn’t disagree with the things she said, her ‘warning’ troubled me. I thought to myself, “But that’s your experience! It doesn’t mean it will happen to me…”
Looking back and thinking about her message now, having experienced my own wilderness and extreme life-changing challenges, I can appreciate more fully what she was trying to express...
You see, challenges do come to God’s children and we do find ourselves in the wilderness at different times during our lives. There are so many things that can happen which knock us to the floor and we have no control over...and the bible doesn’t promise an easy road, quite the opposite for bearing His Name – Jesus.
It’s hard to hear a warning when times are good.
Yet challenges do come that we have no control over.
The death of a loved one.
Indeed other people hurting us can have such an impact we can be left feeling insecure, disillusioned, isolated, alone, unable to trust, anxious, depressed, fragile and weak. And yes, all this can happen when we are faithful children of God!
The only solution during these times is to look forward to the promise of restoration and healing we can experience – Both in this life, and the age to come when Jesus returns.
Scripture warns us of challenges and wilderness experiences, of betrayal and hurts, yet it also assures us of God’s faithfulness and of the blessings that will come. Listen to Isaiah 51:1-3 which has been a comfort to me:
‘Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. 3 For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.’
Furthermore as Christians are we are children of God and therefore descendants of Abraham through Jesus Christ. So we too are included in this section’s promise to have our wilderness environment become ‘a garden of the LORD’ and become so grateful we cannot help but sing praise!
So when we find ourselves in difficult times, when everything around us seems uncertain and unstable, let us choose to focus our minds on the unchanging character of God and upon His promises. Let us look forward in expectation of better times to come, where we too will have a testimony of His faithfulness to share with others, encouraging them to stay steadfast in their faith…For what is faith if one doesn’t have a vision of what is to come that’s better than now?
Indeed, why would we need faith in Jesus if we have everything we need here to be fully satisfied? Yes, we can impact others and our environment now while we await His return, but this current world is not meant to fully satisfy us, as Jesus’ Kingdom is yet to fully come. For as children of God we are citizens of heaven working as His ambassadors until His Kingdom is fully established, when He returns to both save His faithful followers and destroy His enemies.
Looking forward takes intentional effort from us. We must be committed to prayer and studying the bible for enlightenment.
Popular psychology can help in some ways, but ultimately it doesn’t support our faith and quest for godly understanding.
I've never appreciated the term ‘moving on’ from traumatic life events, and it seems modern psychology is now agreeing. ‘Moving on’ suggests we forget and leave hurts behind. I have always preferred ‘moving forward’ which admits our life experiences stay with us (even the negative ones like grief), but although they do stay with us, we can heal and move forward with Jesus – We are then shaped by our experiences not broken by them. Modern psychology is now agreeing with this…but expects people to look inward to move forward, rather than looking forward.
Looking inward can be helpful, yet it is limited. During wilderness times, people looking inward are left to look at their bareness.
However when we’re in the wilderness and we look forward, keeping our eyes on Jesus, we see past the bareness to ‘the garden of the LORD’ that is to come. We dream. We imagine. We see past the present, looking beyond. We have a future dream that is so much more than we could ever create for ourselves. We have a future dream based on much more than our own limited talent and resources. We have a future dream that is real.
And, when we begin to look forward, we begin to move forward…one step and day at a time.
When we begin to look forward we cultivate our wilderness with anticipation, eagerness, excitement and thankfulness, preparing our hearts for what is to come. Preparation does take time however we know the LORD desires a great harvest from our lives, so this cannot be rushed.
Again, the only solution during challenging times is to look forward to the promise of restoration and healing we can experience – Both in this life, and the age to come when Jesus returns. And to look forward we must be diligent in looking after our relationship with Jesus through prayer and studying the Bible.
If you need a bible study resource, my husband and I offer free bible study posts on our website ‘Study Scripture Today’ free of charge, as we truly desire to encourage and equip others in their faith and relationship with Jesus.
Keep looking forward, Melanie.