When we look at the lives of all of those whom God used in the Bible, every single one of them went through a time of preparation before they stepped into their calling and purpose. We all have those seasons of preparation in our lives as well and we call them Wilderness seasons.
Right after Jesus was baptized and before He was launched into His ministry as the Savior of the world, He spent 40 days in the wilderness with the Holy Spirit. He was tempted by the devil, surrounded by wild beasts, and ministered to by angels. Mark 1:12 says,
Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.
The children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness after they had been set free from their captivity in Egypt. They had been given the Promised Land by God, but they weren’t mature enough yet to receive it. They needed to learn some things about the God Whom they served before being able to stand in their new identity as a nation.
There are few times in our Christian lives more confusing than the seasons spent in the wilderness. These seasons are marked by isolation, physical and/or emotional discomfort or distress, deep personal reflection, and repentance where needed. They are also seasons of deep growth in our relationship with the Father. If we will listen to the Holy Spirit and learn from the Godly examples around us and in God’s Word, these seasons in the wilderness don’t have to be too terrible.
Here are some things we can learn in the wilderness alone with God.
Reliance on God Alone
King David went through a few wilderness seasons in his life. His first one occurred as he was tending the family sheep as a shepherd on the hills around his childhood home. He spent that time of isolation in the Presence of God, learning a deep love of God and a trust in His goodness that lasted the rest of his life.
God uses the isolation of the wilderness season to distance us from the influences of other people. He does this to us to help us learn to rely on Him and Him alone.
We must learn to rely on Him solely to meet our need for approval and provision. He does this because He doesn’t want us to be influenced by our insecurities, or by the well-meaning manipulation of other people.
The fact is, only God knows who we are and what we are created for. Other people can’t really see it until it comes to pass. God explained this to Samuel when he went to go anoint the young David to be the next king over all of Israel.
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
David had been left in the wilderness, caring for his family’s sheep, while his older brothers were sent to stand before the prophet Samuel. All of David’s family saw him as a child, only good for watching flocks, but God had been molding and training David in the wilderness to rely on Him and Him alone. Even after David was anointed to be the next king, God sent him back into the wilderness for more training.
All of this training to rely on God paid off in a big way in David’s life. He was able to defeat Goliath because he knew God was bigger and stronger – because he spent all of that alone time with Him.
Disregarding the Opinions of Others
Time in the wilderness helps us see God’s perspective on our situations and hear God’s opinion about how we need to do what He has called us to. There is great temptation to change the plans God has given to us because they aren’t popular or approved by the counselors we seek. The special season of reliance on God teaches us not to put our faith in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God alone.
Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5,
My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
God wants our faith to rest on the power of God instead of the wisdom of men. Paul went on to say, “We are fools for Christ’s sake,” in 1 Corinthians 4:10 — not because he was actually a fool, but because faith in Christ looks foolish to the world. The strength of character to stand up to the disapproval of our peers and elders takes time spent in the wilderness to develop.
Trust in God’s Timing
Let’s be honest. People are impatient. We are people, so we are naturally impatient with God’s timing. Thankfully, God knows better than we do and will lead us faithfully only as fast as we can go. God knows that if He were to give His plans all to us at once, we would become discouraged by the battles ahead and give up. God knows exactly what we can handle and only gives us the steps right in front of us. He did this for the Israelites after they left Egypt, and He will do the same for us because He loves us.
Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ Exodus 13:17
Knowing Who You Are
When it came time for David to slay the giant Goliath, he first went before King Saul to present himself as the champion for the Israelites. David had slain a lion and a bear with God’s help, so he knew this giant would just be another wild beast before the Living God. As he presented his case to Saul, Saul agreed to allow David to stand for the people of Israel before Goliath. This solved a problem for Saul, but Saul wanted to “help” David by providing his own armor for David to use.
And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you.’ 1 Samuel 17:37
David was wise enough to know that the strength of God was mightier than the armor of Saul, and he refused to rely on anything but a slingshot, five smooth stones, and God alone. God had shown David who he was with Him, so David didn’t need to put on the identity of King Saul in any way. He simply trusted in Who God is and defeated the giant. He had learned the faithfulness of God in the wilderness.
Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
After Jesus returned from the wilderness season, He went to the synagogue in Nazareth. Luke writes in chapter 4, verses 17-21,
And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.
And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down;
and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
Jesus entered Nazareth knowing Who He was and what He was called to do and began proclaiming it everywhere He went from that day forward.
Now, we obviously don’t have a calling to be the Savior of the world, but we do have a calling to preach the Gospel to every nation in word and deed. How that manifests in our lives is up to the Father, and seasons in the wilderness will help us receive our identity and purpose as we seek to glorify God in our own lives and circumstances.
Replacing Slavery Mindsets with Promised Land Promises
Living in this broken and fallen world has quite a few pitfalls. We can pick up slavery mindsets and habits without even realizing it, and time with God in the wilderness will help us let those evil mindsets go. In order for us to be able to carry the glorious work He has given us, we have to have kingdom and victory mindsets. That requires replacing thoughts of defeat and misery with thoughts of victory through Christ and the glory of God on this earth. We must mature to the point where we can accurately reflect God’s will be done and God’s kingdom come on this earth in order for us to walk fully in the image of Christ here on earth.
Wilderness seasons are a great opportunity to replace those expectations of failure, defeat, sickness, lack, poverty, and death with the promises we find the Word of God for us. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil, He only responded with the Word of His Father every time. As we follow His example, we will get through the wilderness and go on to victory!