The Bible tells us about the Israelite nation suffering as slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh. God then performed mighty miracles through Moses to finally convince Pharaoh to let them go. Exodus 13:17-18 “Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.” The people left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea by walking on dry ground when God performed another mighty miracle in dividing the waters. They entered the wilderness where God gave them the Law. When God was ready to send the Israelites into the promised land, God commanded them to send spies into the land. When the spies returned, ten of the twelve spies reported that the land was good but the people were too strong for them to conquer. They wanted to return to Egypt. Numbers 14:26-35 “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’” So, the Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness.
Perhaps you also feel like you have spent time in the wilderness in your life; maybe you are in the wilderness even now. The wilderness has come to stand for a time when you feel like you are separated from all that is good. You could feel isolated physically, emotionally or spiritually. Maybe you feel great suffering. You may be depressed. You may have little hope that things will improve. I want to assure you that you do not need to be depressed. There is hope.
If you are in the wilderness because of sin in your life, you can only truly depart from the wilderness when you repent of your sin and confess it before God. 1 John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When you have the forgiveness of sins, then you can have peace with God. Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
If you are in the wilderness because of other circumstances, I cannot tell you when you will leave the wilderness. But I can encourage you to be strong and continue faithful. The following scripture talks about resisting the devil. 1 Peter 5:9-11 “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” May God perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. Whatever suffering you are experiencing now, it is little compared to the ultimate glory you will receive when you remain faithful. Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
After Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness. Matthew 4:1-3 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” Jesus resisted the temptation of the devil. As Jesus was led into the wilderness, God may also lead you into the wilderness to allow you to be tested. He will not tempt you with evil, but He may allow you to be tried to test your faith. God told Abraham to take his son Isaac into the wilderness and sacrifice him there. Abraham obeyed God and faithfully passed the test. You may also be in the wilderness to be tested by God.
There may be another reason for being in the wilderness. It may be that you intentionally put yourself in the wilderness for spiritual renewal. I believe that the apostle Paul hinted at this when he said that after his conversion he went to Arabia (Galatians 1:15-17). You too may choose to isolate yourself for a time to seek God in prayer and be given renewal and direction in your life.
Many people find themselves in the wilderness and feel isolated from what is good. If you find yourself in the wilderness, I encourage you to remain strong and endure the trials that you face. The eternal blessings in Christ Jesus are reasons for you to remain faithful.