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Making Peace with the Wilderness

First published by Live Salted - one of my favorite places to get fed: www.livesalted.com


Has anyone ever told you to “get lost”?


In my neighborhood, at least, this was a common phrase that meant “go away” or “leave me alone”. I don’t think anyone ever meant it literally. Imagine telling your little sister or the boys next door to wander into the forest without a compass (or cell phone). That would be mean and disturbing, right? Yet, isn’t that exactly what God did to the Israelites after Moses led them out of Egypt? Well, sort of. He actually went with them, but they had no idea what lay ahead or how they would survive. Their experience in the Exodus wilderness has strong parallels to what many of us have experienced in our own lives.


For starters, we have all experienced losses through the pandemic, whether our jobs, lack of connection, cancelled vacations, or discarded dreams. As such, many of us have literally felt “lost”. Personally speaking, this isn't my first wilderness, and it won't be my last, but while I’ve been home safe with my family, I’ve found myself asking God for a map to lead me out of the discomfort – a guarantee that I’ll feel confident in the direction of my ministry, the safety of my family, and clear answers to why so many are allowed to suffer.


God has allowed us to experience feeling lost this year, and it’s been disorienting, disrupting, quite confusing but also necessary.


If you are honest, I’m sure you have more questions than answers, but the Bible doesn’t view a wilderness journey as negative. In divine terms, being lost is not necessarily a punishment or banishment from those we love and depend on. While we regard it as being “nowhere” and definitely not in the presence of anything or anyone that matters, in spiritual terms, it’s actually an opportunity. It can even be a peaceful place, if we seek God’s purposes.


In search of answers, it’s essential to look back and reflect on our individual journeys. In retrospect, we often discover the lessons God so patiently waits for us to realize while we sit in the woods. The Holy Spirit continues to remind me that through suffering we are always being freed from something, to something greater. Egypt was terrible, but it was predictable. It was a comfort zone. The Promised Land is beyond what we can ask for or imagine, but it requires refinement and repurposing through the experience of being lost.


How often in our spiritual journey do we give ourselves permission to have NO IDEA where we are, or where God is?


How willing are we to wander away from the comforting undercurrent of familiarity and security?

Whatever your Promised Land is for the next season of your life, you can’t claim it without trusting completely in Jesus.


“Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.” – Ephesians 3:17 TPT


The wilderness is a common theme through Scripture. So is “remembering”, or reflecting on what has gone before. There are many verses where God asks His people to recall how He met them in their darkest moments – not to relive the pain, but to receive assurance that His presence is always with them – as it is with us today.


“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8


Now that we are nearly through the pandemic and all else we have collectively experienced, I can look back and learn some fairly simple lessons I would have missed if life hadn’t become so uncertain. As a leadership coach, I want to help you draw your own God-sized conclusions so you can move forward with more intention, joy, and focus related to your calling.


My prayer is that through looking back you realize that you are exactly where God wants you to be, and He is here with you.


3 Simple + Scriptural Ways To Find Your Way Home

Here are three simple and scriptural practices to try when you find yourself in a spiritual wilderness:


1. STAY PUT

I remember my parents repeatedly telling me that if I get lost, stay put. “Don’t move,” they warned, “We will come to you.” I don’t know about you, but as an adult doing nothing when I feel lost is not my first instinct. I tend to scramble for whatever makes me feel safe, secure, loved and valued. I work more, seek social activity, and exercise harder. Yet, what God is really inviting us into in these seasons is stillness and solitude so we can hear His voice:


“Stay put,” God whispers to us. “In fact you are already found. Can you trust me enough to be still and know that I am God?” (Psalm 46:10)


Usually what drives us to action when we feel lost is fear, which comes in many forms: fear of loneliness, fear of harm, fear of rejection, etc. When we are out of control and in unfamiliar territory, Jesus is inviting us to explore faith on a higher level:


“Why are you fearful?” He says to His disciples in Luke 8: “Have you lost your faith in me?”


What about you? In the deep discomfort of the unknown, we tend to rely on ourselves to complete the journey. The Bible teaches that only by relying completely on God can we discover the path positioned to lead us out of the wilderness. Leaders, in particular, feel responsible to find a solution and share it to encourage the stragglers falling behind. Stop grappling for answers and start listening. Every kingdom leader is led by Jesus who can’t wait to show you the way through.


2. REFLECT

Does God actually promote getting lost? It seems so. Maybe it’s not such a terrible thing, even though every human parent is terrified their child will experience being alone and afraid. Our heavenly Father doesn’t want us to feel fear for fear’s sake; He’s actually preparing us for something that we can’t foresee, and aren’t meant to.


One of the most profound practices leaders use to grow spiritually and emotionally is pondering past experiences in order to fall forward in the next stage of the journey. Instead of writing off an extremely trying year, search for the hidden treasures placed along the trail for you, alone, to find. It’s too easy to erase an entire memory and lose the high points. Instead, prayerfully consider when and where you:

  • Heard God

  • Saw God

  • Felt God

  • Believed God

  • Asked God

  • Thanked God

What greater Truths emerge from reflecting on these experiences? What is God inviting you to change moving forward?


3. CELEBRATE

Rather than avoiding the memories of this past year or any wilderness experience, why not physically commemorate where God showed up? The Bible shares several instances spiritual leaders stopped to acknowledge how the divine intervened in a variety of circumstances:


“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”1 Samuel 7:12


“Ebenezer” stones are mentioned only three times in the Bible, representing lamentation, defeat, and victory. Looking back over your year, where can you stack a few stones to mark where God met you in each of these situations? In your garden? On your desk? Perhaps take a marker and write a word on each stone as a reminder. Don’t leave 2020 without acknowledging the path God has led you on to arrive at this point – including the darkest twists and turns. They all serve as spiritual markers that play into His vision of your life and leadership.



REDISCOVERING WONDER

When I was hiking with my daughter last year we actually did get disoriented and ended up in a clearing far from our destination. The sun was going down and we didn’t have cell service. We were lost. To her credit, she was almost excited about it. As we began to backtrack, she shared about a blog written by an ultrarunner who intentionally loses his way in the woods. He writes about how difficult it is to get lost in today’s world with so much technology that drops the pin on our exact location. He regards getting lost as a welcomed adventure.


With all the options life offers, the many comforts and technology, we rarely enter anything without a thorough plan. Whether we are setting out on a hike, a relationship or a career path, we don’t allow ourselves the wonder of getting lost, and the learning that comes with having to navigate our way through the unknown. Even though I’m no longer a child, I still do all I can to avoid losing my way.


Reflecting on this past year it is teaching me, in tangible ways, the value of not only being lost, but also staying put until I experience the joy of being found. BE NEW!

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