God Is Still There
A wilderness is defined as an uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable region. At least that’s the definition I was given when I googled it. I would also describe a wilderness as dry, barren, lonely, and rocky. And it was in a spiritual wilderness that I found myself several years ago. Because it was a time in my life that was dry... seemingly devoid of the rain of God’s blessing; barren... seemingly devoid of evidence of real fruit in my life; lonely... devoid of any conscious awareness of God’s presence; and it was rocky... littered with problems and obstacles and hard things.
If I could have pinpointed one particular trigger that launched me into my wilderness experience, it would have been my mother’s departure for heaven. Not only did my grief leave me with a feeling of emptiness and deep sadness, but there were many circumstances around the time of her death that seemed to drive me into a spiritually dry, barren, lonely, rocky place.
Life just seemed to close in on me.
One morning, I was especially conscious of the oppression and darkness that seemed to be crushing my spirit to the point I found breathing difficult. I slipped into the place where I meet the Lord early in the morning, intending to open my Bible to the verses on which I had been meditating the day before. But as divine providence would have it, I made a “mistake.” Instead of opening to the intended passage, I opened to a chapter that was several pages past where I had been. But before I could correct my mistake, my eye fell on this verse:
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
The verse seemed to be illuminated. It leaped up off the page as I heard God whispering to me through the words,
Anne, most people shy away from the wilderness. They don’t like the darkness of oppression, loneliness, dryness, barrenness. They don’t like to be in a hard place. If they think I’m going to lead them there, they resist, back off, and want no part of following Me. But, Anne, Moses approached the thick darkness. Because that’s where I was. And that’s where I still am, Anne.
Embrace the darkness.
Before I could answer Him, before I could even pray, almost before I could even think, I found myself turning several pages back to where I was “supposed” to have been reading. The first verse of that reading was,
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
The desert is another name for the wilderness! That dry, barren, rocky, lonely place where I seemed to be. And I knew God was telling me,
Anne, I am here. Look closely. You will see My glory in the dark cloud.
I was not consciously aware of seeing His glory at that moment. All I knew is that God had spoken to me and told me He was there. And so I bowed my head, with tears slipping down my face, and whispered to Him in response, If You are truly in the darkness, then I embrace it. I want to be where You are.
God is in the darkness and God is in the wilderness.
I now know that by personal experience. But although Hagar had known God’s presence in her wilderness years earlier, she had forgotten. She did not know that now. So when she suddenly found herself thrust not only into a dry, barren, lonely, rocky physical place, she also found herself in a spiritual wilderness — alone for the first time in thirty years and burdened with the responsibility of providing for the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and practical needs of a difficult teenage boy. Hagar desperately needed help. She knew she couldn’t go back, but she had no idea how to go forward. And so she wandered... through the desert of Beersheba and the wastelands of her own spiritual and emotional devastation.
You don’t necessarily have to be a single mother, thrust there by an untimely death or a nasty divorce, to find yourself in Hagar’s situation. Like me, maybe life has just crashed in on you. Wounds and rejection can pile up. Perhaps you feel you have no one to turn to, no one to talk to, no one to help you. If you and I are not careful, that aloneness can cause us to wander in our spirits also.
We want to get away from the darkness, to get out of the wilderness, but in our frantic effort we stumble from remorse to resentment, from self-pity to self-flagellation, from self-deception to depression, from brokenness to bitterness, from faith to agnosticism, from frustration to anger, from hurt to hardness, from hardness to helplessness.
May I ask you something I have asked myself?
Deep down in the hidden chambers of your soul, are you offended by God? Angry with Him, even? Are you wandering from God? You thought you knew Him, but now He seems remote at best.
The solemn conclusion I’ve come to is that if He is everywhere, that means He is also in the wilderness. And if I can’t turn to Him there, who can I turn to?
If you are wandering in the wilderness... that spiritually dry, barren, lonely, rocky place... would you remember that the God of Hagar is still there?
Excerpted with permission from the Wounded by God's People by Anne Graham Lotz, copyright Thomas Nelson.