About the wilderness
I recently heard a sermon at church about walking through a wilderness season of life. The lesson was, in a very brief summary: Embrace the wildernesses of your life and learn from them. Although you don’t choose to go through hard times, you can choose to be transformed by them.
A couple of things came to mind as I listened.
First, I'm no longer in the middle of my wilderness! God is doing something new and I'm rejoicing! For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I'm walking away from a difficult season with a glimpse of my promised land! My waiting is over. I'm sure I have many more hard times ahead, but for now, I'm leaning into and enjoying the good things before me. These words describe my current reality well:
“Arise my love, my beautiful one and come away. For behold the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come.”
Song of Solomon 2:1–12
The second thing I began to reflect on was what I've been learning from my wilderness? How did I, and how am I, allowing God to transform me through my long years of waiting? For years, I’ve been able to relate to the life of Abraham waiting so long for a promised son. I understood King David’s longing to build a temple and be told no. The story of Moses and the Israelites has been one I return to often to find promises for myself. I have my own versions of their stories. We all do, I imagine. I think that's the point. Isn't that why God wanted their stories told? They were people like you and me. Even though it’s not possible to look ahead to see the ending of difficult chapters of waiting, it is possible to see how God has worked in the lives of those who went before me. Hindsight is 20/20 and the stories of the bible offer me those glimpses backward. They offer me hope. And those glimpses of hope encouraged me to keep praying for what was on my heart. If God was faithful to hear then, I know he is faithful now.
Micah 7:7 says “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord. I wait for God my Savior. My GOD WILL HEAR ME.”
My Wilderness story
And so I prayed and held onto hope. For 24 plus years I prayed for an opportunity to move closer to family. Time and time again I would search my heart and lay down my longings asking God to line them up with his. To download his hopes and dreams into my life. And yet, I continued to feel the same pull. My heart’s desire only grew and I continued to feel the confirmation that I should not give up. But, the question remained, how long must I wait? And what was God going to do with my good desire?
Fast forward to the last few years. I began to feel a shift. A sense that God was at work and I was on the edge of my “promised land.” I started to build my boat, so to speak. As I began to talk with more confidence of my longing being fulfilled. I’m sure those around me thought it was wishful thinking. You know, like Noah building a boat without any sign of rain. And I had my doubts too. I questioned my ability to discern the Spirit’s voice in my life. Was it wishful thinking? My faith was tested in new ways and it’s been rough. A wilderness within a wilderness.
And then it happened. God said yes! My God heard me and answered me!
It took a lot of waiting and hoping, but I'm left in thanksgiving that God DID hear me all these years! I can give testimony to this truth: “The Lord has heard my plea, the Lord will answer my prayer. ” Psalm 6:9
Prayer is the long game
Through my wilderness of waiting, I have learned that prayer is the long game. That often times, God takes his children on a long journey (with many delays) to their destination because he also wants to change them along the way- and sometimes that takes a while!
I’ve learned that it’s okay to tell God what I want. Just as Jesus asks the blind man “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks me the same thing. I believe this is true, not because I have a transactional relationship with him, but because it’s relational. Jesus wants to know my heart and hear about the things that matter to me. My job in return is to listen well to him and hear his response. If I'm willing to open my eyes to see him and ears to hear him, he will always guide me in how to pray moving forward.
I’ve also learned to never lose hope. God saying yes to moving has given me renewed trust that he does have good plans for me. He is working and orchestrating all the details behind the scenes. It's helpful to remember that I'm not the only one he's working on and sometimes the answer needs to wait until all the people and places are ready. His timing is perfect! I can trust His Spirit’s voice in my life and trust the way he is leading my heart.
Finally, I’ve learned God often reveals his purposes for his children long before the time for them to be fulfilled comes. Not seeing progress towards a prayer being answered does not necessarily mean I'm not on the right path or that the answer is no. I can move forward with confidence knowing that if I'm laying down my hopes before the Lord, I can trust the Holy Spirit's leading in my life even when I don't see evidence of the desired outcome. Consider what Andrena Sawyer points out in her devotional called Her Story: Encouragement For Women In Business:
“You can’t have a testimony without a test. Joseph's purpose was revealed and then he went through years of obstacles. Job suffered tremendous loss, not as a punishment, but because he was called and favored by God. David was ordained king and then had to run for his life.”
Wilderness seasons are hard and sometimes very long. I know, because I’ve gone through one for the last 24 years. But as God has reminded me, let me remind you: God’s promises to you are true. If you feel called to something but have not seen its fulfillment, if you’re walking through your own wilderness, you can still hold onto hope. There’s always hope in the waiting.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.” Romans 4:18