Lately, if I'm real honest, I just feel dry and dead. Lifeless. Lacking in zeal. I've been here in this state of being for a good couple of months now. I struggled at first because I couldn't identify what was going on with me. I am the type of person who likes to have things figured out, and when I come to a place where I cannot figure something out, I struggle to know what to do with myself. It wasn't until I checked out a book at the Library called Curious Faith by Logan Wolfram that God showed me that I am in a "wilderness season."
Wilderness is defined as an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. A neglected or abandoned place.
During this season, I feel very much alone....like I am a lone island in a big sea. I feel like I do not hear God's voice as often as I should. I feel like I am not helping people or serving people like I need and want to be. I struggle with my attitude and I struggle with my perspective. The enemy tempts me to look back or to look too far forward. The enemy attacks my relationships. The enemy attacks the restoration God is giving me. The enemy attacks my identity and tries to make me believe that who I am is not okay. In Curious Faith, Logan Wolfram writes that, "The wilderness isn't always desolation. Sometimes it just feels like we're forgotten."
When I first felt God showing me that this season is a wilderness season for me, I began to pray and examine myself. I can remember times in my life when I landed myself in a wilderness season of my own making, whether it be due to bad life choices, listening to the wrong voice, or not seeking help from others and trying to do things all on my own. Because I have that in my history, I couldn't rule out the possibility that this was what was happening this time. After much praying and digging into Scripture, I felt certain that God was showing me that He was allowing me to be in this wilderness season for a purpose, although He didn't make the purpose clear to me at that time. He did, however, correct me on my attitude. He reminded me of a Joyce Meyer quote - "Your attitude in the wilderness determines how long you will stay there."
In Curious Faith, Logan talks about reexamining your wilderness. She poses the questions, "What if we begin to see the wilderness as a training ground? As a sharpening iron? As a space to find clarity and purpose?" She states that, "No matter what lands you in a wilderness, you must know that you can emerge more sharper, more victorious, more full of hope, and with a renewed curiosity for God." She encourages her readers by saying, "The goodness of God is all around you. The question is, in season of wilderness, are you willing to look around for that goodness? Are you curious about the gifts of today that can help move you through a season when you feel forgotten?"
Through this book, God began to show me that I needed to not look at this wilderness season as a negative thing, even though it doesn't really feel very good. I recalled a message that Jon Porter preached in church not long after I came to the Hope Center for Women over six months ago. A line he spoke has stuck with me all this time - "Can we keep the truth of who God is in front of our eyes?" As the Lord began to deal with me, I started to listen hard....and I began to really dig into Scripture. Life in the wilderness can sure take a toll on a soul, but over and over through the Old Testament, people were driven into the wilderness....and the ever-presence of a loving God endured, even in those dark places of desolation.
In the wilderness, David wrote, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I see You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1)
In the New Testament, even Jesus spent time in the wilderness. When he emerged from this season of testing, He launched His public ministry. Without His wilderness season, even Jesus would not have been prepared for the mission God had for Him.
I believe that is true of me and us as believers. Wilderness seasons are testing periods....proving ground to see how rooted we are in God. And once God sees that we are ready, He launches us out of the wilderness and into the next thing He has for us.
I'm still in my wilderness season. God has given me small glimpses of what is to come, but He hasn't given me the whole picture yet, for which I'm grateful. He knows me...and He knows that if He gives it to me all at once I'll start to try and operate in my own timing instead of trusting His. But I'm grateful for the glimpses He does show me of what is coming. I have no clue what it's all going to end up looking like, but His faithfulness in the past causes me to have faith to believe that it will be better than anything I could ask or imagine.
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." (Ephesians 3:20)
I have to keep the truth of who God is in front of my eyes....because wilderness seasons feel pretty rotten sometimes. If I do not keep the truth of who God is in front of my eyes, I lose hope. Some days I succeed at this and sometimes I don't....but even on the days that I struggle with all of this, I see His goodness around me and I am reminded of the tapestry of faithfulness He has woven through my life. How can I not just trust Him and hang on, waiting with joy and expectation for whatever He has for me in the next season? God is good and He is faithful. Whatever it looks like, whatever is coming, I know all will be well and all will be good....because it's who He is.
Last month, we went to a women's retreat in the mountains in Bryson City, North Carolina. Amidst building relationships and sitting under great teaching, I got to spend time doing something I truly love - taking photographs. On the last morning we were there, I felt God telling me to take a photo of the tree directly in front of me. I'm looking at a tree that looks like nothing spectacular at all, a tree nestled amidst a bunch of many other trees in the valley between our cabin and the mountains. But He kept after me to take a photo of it, so I did....even though it really didn't make sense at the time.
As I took the photos, my eyes were drawn to a lone leaf sticking out to the right of the tree, so I captured a photo of that too, because for whatever the reason, I was drawn to it.
A couple of weeks later, I was browsing through the photos from the retreat. I happened upon those photos I took that morning of the tree. As I was looking at them, I felt the Lord speak to me about my wilderness season. He told me that regardless of how I feel, I'm not by myself....that He sees me and He's never left me. He went on to say that if I just keep holding on and trusting Him and seeking Him in this wilderness season, He will bring me out of it in the perfect time and launch me into the exact place He wants me. He told me I'll know all the details in just a little while if I just stop striving and rest in Him, and enjoy the beauty and intimacy and depth that He wants to give me in this wilderness season if I'll just look for it.
As I studied this closer shot of that lone leaf I was so drawn to (it's there on the right side of the photo), I noticed something that I hadn't when I was photographing it....the leaf is in the shape of a heart. Tears came into my eyes as I felt God telling me that I was that leaf. I might feel all by myself out in the wilderness, but His love surrounds me there if I'll just receive it and let it in. He also told me that it's not just Him there....that while I feel totally on my own, He has surrounded me with a whole body of people to love me, encourage me, and speak truth and life into me. He said that although I'm in a wilderness season and do not really feel it, that they are all there and He has made me a part of them....even though I do not really know what my place in the whole picture is.
So for however long this wilderness season last, I'll be grateful for the promises He has given me....and I will wait with as much joy as I can muster up because His faithfulness deserves that. And even when I am not feeling it, I will trust Him because His track record in my life is perfect. Nothing but goodness, beauty, faithfulness, and love has ever come from Him.
It all comes down to a choice. Do I have a crummy attitude and become bitter towards God during this wilderness season....or do I keep the truth of who God is in front of my eyes? I choose the latter....sometimes I have to keep choosing it several times throughout my days. Even when I do not feel it, I will keep the truth of who God is in front of my eyes. (Thank you, Jon Porter.) Sooner or later my feelings will catch up to me. There will come a day when the waiting will meet the promise....because the Lord is good.
So for now, I will declare the words of the song below...."All of my life, in every season, You are still God. I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship."
If you are in a wilderness season of your own, be encouraged. He is faithful and He is love. Perfect love. Seek the treasures in the wilderness. There is beauty here.
Visit Logan Wolfram's website/blog (Author of Curious Faith): www.loganwolfram.com
Read Megan's story at: www.hopecenterforwomen.org/megan