This post was originally published in 2012. But it fits as much today as it did then.
I once had a mentor tell me that the lessons of our lives often go in circles, just like Israel wandered a circular path in the wilderness. The older I grow, the more I see the cycles—the same lessons are learned more deeply as we step into new but different places.
If you find yourself walking through a wilderness season, take heart. God is using the deeply worn pathways to teach you and take you somewhere good.
Forty years—it sounds like an eternity. I’m sure it felt that way for the Israelites too. For forty years they wandered around in the wilderness waiting to possess their land.
Now they sat at the door of promise. And Moses took the opportunity to remind his wayward flock of a few things. They were to obey. Not part or pieces of God’s Law, but all of it. God’s blessing would rest upon them in their land as long as they walked with him (Deuteronomy 8:1).
They were also to remember. Not just the good times and not just the bad ones—all of the memories were to remain locked in their minds (Deuteronomy 8:2). We often recall only the joy or only the pain, but God wants us to hold them all together. For in the wilderness—the hot, arid place where only God can meet our needs—he humbles, tests, refines, and proves.
God knew what Israel couldn’t fully comprehend. The land he was about to give was exceedingly abundant. There’d be no more scarcity or hunger. There’d be no more manna and water from a rock. There’d be riches and diversity and plenty. They’d eat decadent meals every evening until they were full (Deuteronomy 8:7–10). But if they didn’t learn to depend on him with their little, they wouldn’t trust him with a lot. Instead they’d love the gifts and forget God.
But why so many trials and such a long a season? Moses told the people that God did it so, “…that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16). God disciplined that he might teach them dependence and ultimately do them good.
When I think about God’s discipline, I seldom frame it in these terms. I think of correction as something necessary when I do something wrong. But maybe God looks at it differently. Certainly there are times when we go astray, and he must bring us back. But there are others times when He desires to grow us up and strengthen our faith.
I’ve never walked in the wilderness for forty years. But for the past two years God has taught me to trust him one day and one step at a time. There’s been financial stress, but I’ve never wanted for anything I truly needed. There have been career disappointments, but they’ve taught me to look for where God is working right now. There have been health issues, but they’ve taught me to trust God and choose joy regardless of my physical state.
So how about you? As you look at your own wilderness experiences, can you see God’s gracious hand? He might just be getting you ready for something really, really good.