I realized something sitting in church this weekend. Something that struck a chord in me when I didn’t expect it, and something that has brought me to tears and is bringing me (again) to my knees. I’ve heard the story of Jesus wandering in the desert before, but I haven’t heard it so clearly as it applies to me until this past Sunday.
Do you know the feeling? When someone is addressing a crowd but they are speaking directly to you? As if you’re the only one in the room?
Yep, that was me on Sunday. And now I’m trying to listen harder as I open my hands up to God and attempt to say, “Ok, God. I hear you. And I’m going to trust you in this desert even thought it’s really not the place I want to be.”
I’m sure Jesus didn’t really want to wander for 40 days either.
Here’s what I’m holding onto with new perspective, and the bit of the story that made me realize this is God at work again–in a deeper way than I’ve previously recognized in a particular area of my life: When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, He did nothing but what his Father told him to do. And he didn’t have days to think about it before acting. He had to respond to temptation in what was most likely seconds, and still to honor God and to trust him fully. So he only did what he knew for sure, and that was to rely solely on God for his provision, sustenance and timing.
He only acted in the present, and he was present with God.
Jesus had just received the Holy Spirit upon being baptized in the Jordan, and he could have acted as Satan tempted him to do. He could have rushed into a different future than the one God had for him–he was fully human and had a will of his own. He could have turned that rock into bread.
He had been anointed by his Father, and then he had been asked to wait.
I don’t think Jesus knew just how long he would roam in that desert. I doubt any of us longs to roam after we feel like we’ve been given a vision for the future.
As for me, once given a picture that I feel is the result of prayer and listening for God, I kind of want the future to be RIGHT NOW. As in, yesterday. Let’s make this thing happen, God. I’ve got my marching orders, so let’s march.
And when things don’t pan out the way I imagined they would from there, I get discouraged. I begin to doubt. I wonder if I can still hear from God, or if maybe the thought was all my own and I was trying to drive some crazy bus without a license.
This time, I really can’t drive the bus without God handing me the key. This is the very best thing for me, I’m sure, but it is SO stinking hard. I absolutely feel like I’m wandering in a desert, and I feel like God just keeps saying to me, “Wait a while longer.”
There is something to be said for trying to live in the will of God, but something human in me that absolutely resists it, too. I know what I want. And I thought I heard what God wanted. So why don’t they line up? Maybe because I can only see the very corner piece of the puzzle when God is looking at the whole picture.
In a desert season, it is harder for me to see the silver lining in things. I have to strain a bit more to look past my disappointment and discouragement to trust my Father, and to believe with all of my heart that if he has truly anointed me for something, he will see me to it.
Maybe you feel this way, too, in some area of your life–like you’ve been given a picture or a dream or a goal, but you can’t quite see your way to it yet? And maybe it feels like the absolute hardest thing to stay positive and hopeful for this thing you’re dreaming of, when all you want to do is experience the fullness of it…the magnitude and beauty of it as you imagine it could be.
It is SO hard for me to say this, because it’s a daily exercise of faith for me to believe it and apply it in my own life, but…
If God has anointed you for something and you are still waiting for it, this period of wandering in the desert is the very best thing he has for you (for me) right now. Our obedient waiting will be for his glory, just as he was glorified when Jesus resisted temptation and found sanctification in the waiting. For all of the days that God says, “Wait…still wait,” I believe he is writing an even greater story than the one we can imagine. I believe he is strengthening our faith and building our testimony.
It is hard work, this waiting. This sitting still and pressing in, longing for breakthrough and direction. But there is beauty in the wandering. In what feels like silence. And in someday breaking fast and stepping into whatever story God has for us in the journey.
Our desert places are sacred. We find ourselves alone there with God. We discover new depths of desperation, brokenness, hope, resolve.
i am with you in the desert place, dear friends. may God be glorified in the waiting!