Have you ever felt like you were wandering in circles? Like you do the same things over and over again — laundry, groceries, emails. You visit the same spots — kid’s school, gym, work, church. Certain seasons of life can feel like a holding pattern in more ways than one. Spiritually, physically and emotionally there are times when we just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
I don’t know if you are experiencing one of those seasons right now or not. The beginning of the year and all the buzz about goals and resolutions can cause us to ask questions like:
- Is there a difference between perspiration and inspiration?
- Could I be missing something important God has called me to do?
- Does the mundane routine of my life have great value or is there something more?
The people of Israel found themselves in a 40 year long holding pattern after they grumbled and disobeyed God. During this time they ate the same food, wore they same clothes, and circled the same wilderness. God provided for them, taught them lessons and carried out some consequences for their attitudes and behaviors during this time.
The story of the Israelites in the wilderness is the sort of Old Testament event that was never forgotten. The Psalms, Prophets, Gospels, and several New Testament letters make reference to the lessons learned from the wilderness wanderings. Later God fulfilled every promise he made to his people in giving them victory in the land of promise. They defeated their enemies in Canaan and were once again able to cultivate the soil, make new clothes and live in more permanent dwellings. The wilderness wasn’t forever, but it probably felt that way for the two million people moving through the desert with nothing but manna to eat and dreams of a future home.
When we seem to be in a wilderness season, it isn’t always because of complaining or bad choices. Sometimes our health, circumstances or stage of life contributes to a time that feels like a wilderness. In working on a Bible study on the book of Numbers, I’ve been thinking a lot about the wilderness. So my interest was perked a few days ago as I came across this verse in the Luke 5:16:
“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”
It reminded me that the wilderness is often a place of preparation. The Israelites took a census and got organized during their time in the wilderness. John the Baptist was a voice crying out from the wilderness. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. Once Christ began healing and teaching, people followed him everywhere, but he often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
When we feel stuck in routine, like the landscape never seems to change, we can be proactive in prayer during our own wilderness seasons. During the beginning of 2017,
- If we feel unsatisfied or unsure of our purpose, we should withdraw and pray.
- If we are weary and tired but uninspired, then we should withdraw and pray.
- If we know God has big things ahead for us, then we should withdraw and pray so we can be prepared for what lies ahead.
So when can you withdraw today? Can you steal away for an hour, half an hour or even 10 minutes and get in God’s presence? Pour out your heart to him, ask him for clarity and make a list of any nudges toward action you sense while in his presence.
Jesus has things for us to learn in the wilderness, but we need to follow his example to withdraw and pray so we’ll be prepared for all God has in store!
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular Bible teacher, conference speaker and writer. She is the author of Total Family Makeover, Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World and Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness. Melissa blogs at MelissaSpoelstra.com.