Before we had Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to guide us to our destination, we had to sit down with a physical map and figure out the best way to get there. Today, a computerized voice tells us which way to go and how long it will take us to get there.
Sometimes the directions are correct, and sometimes they are not. And sometimes, the GPS is not aware of hazards, detours, and traffic jams ahead that can take us off course and onto a long roundabout way to our destination or even to the wrong destination.
As Christians, we have a heavenly GPS that will show us the way without errors or detours. All we need to do is follow the instructions God has given us in His Word, instructions the Holy Spirit provides, or instructions the Lord gives us in our private conversations with Him.
God is the only one who knows our destination, and He is the only one who can get us there safely. But we must seek His direction, step out so He can direct our steps, and obey His instructions when we receive them. It is one thing to hear the word of the Lord, and another thing altogether to obey the word of the Lord.
On my destiny path, I have come to road hazards and taken detours without understanding what was happening. In the recent past, God led me into the wilderness once again. It is a place I had visited before, but I never lived there for an extended time.
Living in the wilderness is much different from visiting the wilderness. I learned this during one summer break from college. I had always liked to hike and had many opportunities to do so as I lived near the Adirondack Park in upstate NY. One Summer, a college friend and I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia. Since we were on summer break, we knew we could not hike the whole 2,200-mile trail, so we decided to pick up the trail in Bear Mountain NY and hike to Georgia, which was approximately 1,170 miles.
We calculated that we would need to hike about 20 miles a day. Next, we had to figure out where to send our food to be picked up because we could not carry with us a two month supply of food. We made our plans, and we set out on our path, excited about the journey.
But the journey soon became difficult. The weather was either very hot or very wet, the pack was heavy with supplies, and the trails were treacherous in places. Our bodies became tired and sore. We soon realized this was no weekend trek in the woods. We also hadn’t taken into account such things as getting colds, spraining an ankle, wet clothes that never dried out, unsanitary conditions, water sources that dried up as the Summer progressed, or food that didn’t show up on time. But we pressed on, and we did manage to complete our journey.
Though it was challenging, it was an experience I will never forget and one that taught me a lot about myself.
That experience on the Appalachian Trail is very similar to a journey in a spiritual wilderness. The stakes were high, and the outcome – survival – was not guaranteed. You may have challenging trials throughout your life, but living in a significant challenge that could result in losing your faith is entirely different.
So there I was in a trial of my faith that lasted seven years. I had no idea I was in the wilderness. I had no idea why I was there or how to get out. I also had no idea it would last as long as it did. It probably would not have lasted as long if I had known what I now know. Although I did not realize it at the time, my experience on the Appalachian Trail proved to be very helpful on my spiritual journey.
In my spiritual wilderness, at first, I thought I had hit a bump in the road and that everything would work out. But that bump turned into a mountain I had to cross over. It was steep and treacherous, and the path was not always clearly marked. I could have given up and turned back, but I would have missed the opportunity to overcome and cross over that mountain.
One day I realized that I was lost and needed help. A few friends tried to help, but like Job’s friends, they didn’t understand what God was doing in my life, and they soon left me there alone. I became desperate, trying to hold onto my faith by a thread. I knew my only hope was God, so I began to pray for wisdom and understanding of what was going on.
I asked Him many questions, and most of His answers revealed things in me that needed to change before I could move on. I have to admit that at times I was angry with God, and I told Him so. But His love and grace knew how I would react, and He was patient with me. He knew my heart was to do what pleased Him. David often complained to God and asked questions, but he always came to understand what God was doing. Just read the Psalms. Many start with despair and end in praise. I think God would rather we be real with him and admit our need for Him than to pretend to be so religious and strong.
When God leads you to the wilderness, it can be frightening, confusing, stressful, and painful. But, He leads you there for a purpose – to prepare you for your destiny. Unless you have been there yourself, you won’t understand. But I hope to give you a heads up so that when it happens to you, you will recognize it for what it is (God’s love for you) and so you won’t fight against the Lord and will be able to persevere and learn everything you need to learn while there.
The lessons learned while in a wilderness experience are valuable tools that could help keep you on the path, going in the right direction and help you to understand what God is doing. It is important to note here that once I realized what was happening, the wilderness was much easier to navigate, and I soon found myself coming out on the other side. Knowing the “why” is half the battle. If you understand what God is doing, and it could be different for each of us, then it is much easier to cooperate with Him.
What I remember about the Appalachian Trail is that it was a struggle to get to the top of the mountain, but when you did reach the top, it was well worth the battle. There is nothing like breathing in super clear air and being able to see a great distance. And so it is in the spiritual wilderness. When you reach the apex, you are filled with fresh breath and a clearer vision that allows you to see much better what God is doing.
Have you been in difficult times? Have you been pulled into a place you don’t want to be? Do you feel trapped and unable to move in any direction? Then you could be in the wilderness and the fire of God’s love.
If you are serious about your walk with God, then you will need to go this way, where you will go from your calling to your commission, from glory to glory, working out your own salvation. Even Jesus had to experience the wilderness.
In recent years there has been an increase of people the Lord is taking to the wilderness. This increase tells me that He is getting ready to do something and is preparing His people for what He is about to do.
Ask the Lord to reveal to you the things you need to know for your journey on the path so that you will be prepared and ready for what the Lord will do.
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