Of all the places you could go, would you choose to go into a dry, secluded wilderness where there’s no one else there but you and whatever wild things that live there? Would you walk through a deep valley guided by only the light of the moon, not knowing where you’re going?
Would you wade through murky waters, filled with gators, snakes, and crocs waiting to devour you? Would you blindly trek up mountainous terrain, heavy showers pounding against your broken and tattered body threatening to reverse each step of progress as you climb? Of course no one would choose to walk into such a situation, but eventually, God chooses it for us. That’s how the wilderness experience is.
What is the Wilderness Experience?
The Wilderness Experience is a place of testing prepared by God for our spiritual maturity. It’s full of rugged harsh places, loneliness, and more often than not, uncertainty. It is a place of education and training for your work in the kingdom of God.
The wilderness experience is an in-between place, not where you were, but not quite where you’re going. It is a place of isolation where we must always go it alone. It is a place of preparation and power if you have the tenacity to survive it.
You’ll know you’re on your way somewhere when you find yourself in that place called the wilderness. You never know when you’re going, you just find yourself there.
In the book of Exodus, the children of Israel found themselves in the wilderness after being rescued from Pharaoh by God at The Red Sea. They were on their way somewhere too, but God had to first test their loyalty. God will always check to see if you can stand the test to be blessed.
In this post, we will discuss the wilderness experience and 7 important ways in which you are transformed in it. Whether you’ve never been there, are there now, or are on your way there, you will never be the same once you’ve been in it.
1. You gain strength and resilience.
The wilderness strengthens you. You don’t become strong and tough by never going through anything. You become that way by successfully going through everything that was sent to break you. Just like you build fleshly muscle through resistance training, you build spiritual muscle the same way. Remember the words of God to Joshua, be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go, (Joshua 1:9, NLT).
2. You learn to walk by faith and not by sight.
In the wilderness, we learn how to live above “see” level or what we can see with our physical eyes. Instead, the desert develops and teaches you how to use your spiritual insight. Remember, mirages will distort your vision and cause you to see things that don’t exist.
Don’t allow the scary things that you see around you, loneliness, heartache, and hardships, to obscure your vision. Walk by faith and not by sight(2 Corinthians 5:7). Keep your focus on God and the promises He made to you.
“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.“
(2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT)
3. You learn how to wait on the Lord.
It’s fairly easy to get impatient in the wilderness, but you have to be careful not to get so impatient that you start trying to make your own way. We sometimes feel that God takes forever to fulfill His promises to us and we often get frustrated and then desperate. That desperation and discouragement gives the enemy an open invitation to deceive us and cause us to settle for his watered-down, counterfeit version of God’s promise. Don’t take the bait because settling only has the potential to thwart your destiny and keep you from what you could have.
The wilderness can put you in an involuntary season of waiting but how you wait is more important than how long you wait. How you get what you desire is more important than when you get it because walking in the desert can make you so thirsty that you will drink from anywhere just to get your fill. Even if it shames God and yourself.
God wants you to understand and be okay with letting go of anything that is not in alignment with what He promised you and be content within yourself that He has better for you. Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry (Habakkuk 2:3, KJV). No matter how long you walk, wait, cry, and grow weary from your wilderness waiting season, method matters more than manifestation.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14, NLT)
4. You discover the real you.
The desert introduces you to you. A you that you never knew existed. It brings out of you what God already placed deep down on the inside of you. The stronger you are, the tougher your struggles because He knows what He’s put inside of you and that you can handle it. While traveling those desert roads, you discover that you’re a fighter, a real soldier for God’s kingdom that can go hard in the paint against anything. You find yourself doing things you never thought you could and standing up to what would probably take other people out. God gives you grace to sustain you because He built you for the test. The bigger your future, the greater your struggles. Don’t be afraid to travel because the wilderness is indeed a path to self-discovery.
5. You get to know the character of God.
Not only do you discover who you are in the wilderness, you also learn the character of your God. He proves Himself to be a provider in lack, a protector in trouble, a friend in loneliness, and whatever else you need Him to be, He becomes. Although the ways in which God moves is a mystery, He reveals enough of Himself for you to see that He’s intentional in everything He allows. He puts you in certain situations to draw you into close relationship with Him so you can get to know Him for yourself. Once you learn who your God is, you’ll be able to approach any situation knowing He has your back. Trust Him to be everything you need and He will prove Himself faithful every time.
6. You learn how to survive on just enough.
In the Exodus, after being led into the desert by Moses, the children of Israel complained of having no food to eat. In response to their need, God sent meat every evening and let manna fall to the ground each morning for their consumption. The manna was thin flakes of meal provided to make bread. Whatever they gathered, it was just enough for that day only. If they saved any of the manna for the next day, it would fill with worms, spoil, and begin to stink.
Each day, God’s mercies and grace are new. Just enough for the day. The wilderness is not a place of abundance, but dependence. Your full dependence on God to supply all your daily needs is required. Having to fully rely on God builds trust and faith. So don’t be discouraged if you find yourself unable to save anything, and only have just enough to get by. It’s just God’s way of saying trust that he will supply all your needs according to his riches and glory (Philippians 4:19, KJV).
7. God trains you to hear His voice.
The wilderness can be a lonely place because it puts us in a transitory state of isolation. However, that isolation has a purpose. God often has to get us alone where our minds can be silenced to train us to hear His voice. His sheep know his voice and a stranger they will not follow.
God speaks to us in various ways. It is either directly through signs, warnings, thoughts, and dreams, or indirectly though the voice of others. It is critical to listen to God’s instruction in the wilderness so you don’t do the wrong thing or veer off the wrong way. After you have been ‘hearing prepared’, whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21, NIV).
The wilderness experience matures and cultivates you. It builds your faith, and teaches you to persevere and withstand the tests and trials it brings. It makes you grateful and promotes you for ministry to others once your season in it has passed. You survive it by trusting God in all that comes and all that goes, saying just as Job said, though He slay me, yet will I trust Him(Job 13:15).
The wilderness has transformative power and when you walk out of it, you won’t be the same person that went in. Remember, it is only temporary. The wilderness is a place of transition, not a permanent destination, so don’t die or take up residence in your wilderness experience. How you journey through determines promotion or retention. Don’t stay any longer than God intended you to. Get out of it what He predestined for you, your power and your promise.