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Hating the Wilderness

wildernessImagine receiving a postcard (for the younger ones than me who may not remember those, it’s like twitter through the mail). There’s a picture of a desert on the front. You get hot just looking at it. You turn it over and it says,

Hey, it’s me. I made it to the wilderness! So far, so BAD. I can’t get relief from the heat. Water’s scarce (thankfully found a post office). Hating it. Please pray.

Of all the metaphors of Christianity, “the wilderness” has certainly found a common usage. It means going through difficulty, turmoil, and/or transition. It means hanging on for dear life when it feels like everything will fall apart. It means facing your inner demons and possibly more than your fair share of real ones too.

Nobody likes the wilderness, but focusing on the wilderness is missing the point.

Maturity in Christ is measured by how much we’ve come to depend on Him. –Bob Sorge, the Fire of Delayed Answers

Dependence doesn’t come naturally. It has to be learned. Independence is natural. It’s comfortable, but for God to reveal Himself and fulfill His promises to our benefit and the way He desires, we must become completely dependent on Him.

There’s a big difference between trust and dependence, or at least in the way, we perceive the two. You can think of trust as polite and holding onto your dignity while dependence is a heaving mess where you lose that sense of self-centeredness.

If you can only trust God when He brings you to the Four Seasons Hotel so you can lounge by the pool, you’ll remain in independence. There are no demands on your emotions or spirit when you’re surrounded by comfort–that’s why we like that!

Trusting God as He leads into the wilderness is quite another matter. You have no idea what’s coming. The terrain and environment is unsettling and unforgiving. You’ll find yourself completely drained and poured out, but that’s where God does amazing work.

In the wilderness, trust is forged into an unshakeable dependence.

It’s not a problem to dislike the wilderness. It would be sort of strange if you did like it. The point is not to love the wilderness, but to know and love Him. You come to the end of your abilities, strategies, and well, ease for something far more wonderful and eternal.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:10

Personal confession: I’ve experienced measures of this, but I’m certainly not there. I see what the wilderness produces, but I resist weakness and dependence. As scary as it is, I want to learn this desperate dependence. I may hate the wilderness–hate talking about the wilderness–but love Him and He’s my focus wherever He leads.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts? How can you apply this to your own life?


fda-sorge3Welcome to week 1 of Chapter 9 for our book club discussion of the Fire of Delayed Answers (disclosure) by Bob Sorge. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. Since the chapters are longer and subject matter warrants, we’ll also be taking 2 weeks for each chapter. If you have a response on your blog, add it to the widget below. Either way, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for her thoughts. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please dive into the conversation!

12 Comments

  1. Oh, sure, wait ’til I’m in the middle of the desert with sweat streaming down my back and an empty canteen, then ask me how I’m likin’ it, why don’t ya? 🙂

    I don’t know what’s going to come out of the desert. I’m just clinging to the hope that when I get to the other end, I’m going to be better and closer to Him than I was going in.
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Farther AlongMy Profile

    • Believe me, we may not be in the same desert, but I am speaking to myself in my own wilderness. Good news is, we don’t have to like it. We just need to get what He has for us there and let Him lead us out. Some days that’s the only hope I have: it will be over at some point. I don’t know how or when, but it will be over. I’m sticking close to Him so I don’t miss a turn. 🙂 Thanks Sarah.

  2. I’ve fallen behind on my reading, but this hits home. Our natural tendencies is to shy away from tough times, but we can’t outrun them like Jonah couldn’t outrun the wisdom he was called to gain, proved by him penning the book. We need to keep reminding one another of these truths of our Father’s will. Thanks, Jason. I don’t think I’ll ever be reminded enough…

    • I think until we are surrounded by His perfection and glory, we’ll need these reminders. I’m right there with you--can’t hear it enough. Thanks Floyd.

  3. Last Sunday morning, I was doing my final prep before teaching. As is my custom, I start my prep time with prayer. But then I stopped.

    I found myself praying for something I realized was even more “dangerous” than praying for patience. It was and is also more needed. I was praying that God would bring me to a place where I was more deeply connected and dependent upon Him.

    As I thought about that prayer, I realized that the process would involve wilderness journeys. And I realized that those wildernesses were and are beyond my control. I cannot pick what they will be, how long they last, etc…

    But if I want to grow in dependence upon Him, I must make the journey into the wilderness that He has prepared for me. Only there will I be able to realize that growth.
    Dusty recently posted..Spiritual PrideMy Profile

    • I had very similar thoughts reading this chapter. I used to pray things like that lightly (in a way), but I take them very seriously now. Yes, He always leads us into His best, but there is a price we pay and we need to be willing to go the distance. I’m with you though, I may hesitate, but there’s nothing greater I desire than to be dependent on and find my fulfillment in Him. I won’t be satisfied with anything else. Thank you, Dusty.

  4. My mind goes back to a couple of times in the wilderness of taking on something I felt like was out of my control and having a completely new way of living. Moving to our first third world country to become dorm parents to high school boys was scary. The first year we wandered around till God finally walked us through that desert to seven years of fruitful ministry, not without trials though. It is so true that trusting is different then dependence on Him but trusting must come first I think. There were more then times than I can count when so much was out of our control, same when we served in Papua New Guinea. There are so many things to turn to in the good old USA, good Godly things, book, DVD’s, podcast, churches, good Godly people to turn to. I think in everyone life there comes a time when all good props are taken away…we are in the desert and it’s so hot and we want to just get through it without getting burned up. In those times, those dreaded times He will come and refresh us and all He wants us to do is acknowledge him as the deliver. I don’t pray for the desert but I do pray what ever it takes Lord, conform me into your images knowing that probably will take a desert to get me to the place of dependence. Great post Jason, going to post it on my fb wall for all to read. Have also bought a couple of Sorge books to give out.

    • I definitely agree with you. Trust has to come first because you can’t have dependence without first trusting. Love hearing your life experiences and what God has done. Interesting point about having so many things to lean on in the US. When all that is stripped away, will we stay in Him and find our true hope? Great thoughts, Betty. I really appreciate the wonderful comment.

  5. I’m learning to depend upon Him more and more each day. Recently I was challenged in a familiar way. I recognized what was happening, knew how I SHOULD respond, and yet I found myself going back to my old coping pattern of trying to control the situation instead of depend upon God.

    I’m a work in progress….a slow work in progress.

    Thanks for this post, I really needed to read it today. I’m in a place where I have no clue what’s going to happen. I’m hard pressed on every side, but I don’t lose hope. God is with me and He is fighting this battle. When I am weak (always) He is strong!

    • Yeah me too. Lots fighting against and lots of pressures, but I know there’s grace there too. I’m with you on the “work in progress.” At least there’s progress. 🙂 Thank you, TC.

  6. I hopped over here from Sarah’s place and I am sure glad I did. I am not involved in the book discussion since I haven’t read the book, but I am somewhat familiar with that “wilderness….” It is in the distance, when it’s finally behind us that we can see where God was taking us and why we had to go through it but oh how painful it is when we are in it. Yet, in those times I have been amazed, when we really yield it over to the Lord, how His peace can come in even in the midst of those times. I believe someday when we are all standing on Heaven’s shores we will know the whys. Everything will fall into place then…..what a day of rejoicing that will be.
    Lori recently posted..If You Only Knew…….My Profile

    • I think you’re right. There are things we can see and understand now, other things we’ll understand later, and still more that He will let us in on when we live face to face with Him for all eternity. He is most certainly faithful though and is intent on bringing us through the wilderness into His best. Thank you, Lori!

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