How to Survive the Wilderness
Today is one of those days where I woke up feeling fully blessed. We had a wonderful weekend full of blessing and answered prayer, and received good news from our daughter in college about some upcoming opportunities the Lord has given her.
But I don’t always wake up this way. Somedays, I wake up feeling lousy. Somedays, I wake up with an unresolved conflict hanging over my head. Sometimes circumstances are 100% out of my control. Those are the “Wilderness Days.” The days when you don’t think you can stand one more trial or irritation.
David, in Psalm 63, gives us wise counsel about how to survive in a wilderness and it’s instructive to note some of the qualities of this this God- loving, yet imperfect man, so that we can prepare ourselves for our wilderness days.
To survive in a wilderness takes forethought and planning. You don’t enter a trial and try to muster up spiritual strength on the spot. Inner spiritual strength comes from building up reserves before your trial hits you square in the face.
To survive in a wilderness:
1. You desire God alone. You seek Him. Your circumstances may be dry and horrible, but your soul is thirsty for God.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (63:1)
2. You prefer God’s presence more than anything or anyone.
Our daily worship prepares us to meet the trials of life, not just our Sunday worship. What goes on in your heart all week defines you more than going to church on Sunday.
“I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” (63:2)
3. You choose to praise God.
When we go through trials, many times our lips betray our hearts by exposing our wrong thoughts. What’s going on inside of our mind eventually comes gushing out of our mouths! What are you known for? A life of praise? Or a life of cutting comments and complaints galore? Instead of complaining or protesting what God is allowing, remember all that He has done in the past and all that He will do in the future. Choose praise. Pray for lips that praise. If you can’t praise God, keep your mouth closed. Don’t infect your kids or neighbors with negative comments that make them question God’s goodness.
A thankful heart is at peace, because it’s content, not wanting more or less than what God’s provided.
A contentious, fretful, discontent heart always wishes, dreams and longs for different circumstances.
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (63:3)
4. Find your satisfaction in God alone.
We can thrive in a wilderness because we’ll always have God. Might I suggest that if you aren’t fulfilled in God, you read Ephesians and note all of the riches we have in Christ?
And if that still isn’t enough, maybe you are clinging to lesser things for your happiness? Those, “if only’s” can quickly become idols.
You know the thought process:
I had more money, more time, more children, less children, better behaved children, a more assertive husband, a less authoritative husband, more money, a bigger house, more respect, more love, more understanding, more opportunities, more health….
The list is only as long as our imagination.
The better way: “Be content in whatever state you are in.” That’s it. The big secret. Be content. Don’t wish for more. Be satisfied with what God has given. God. God. He is the giver. Let that sink in. When we rise up in complaint, it is to Him and his provision and providence.
“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (63:5,6)
5. Cling to Christ.
I don’t know what to say about this, except that when we are allured and enamored by lesser things, we’ll never be satisfied with Christ. We forget what we have. We chase wood, hay and stubble. No woman likes a man with “wandering eyes.” They just kinda creep you out, don’t they? Well, that’s what we are like when we are constantly on the lookout for something better. We have wandering eyes, and it “ain’t attractive” to a woman who professes godliness.
Clinging to Christ sounds desperate, but honestly, clinging to Christ for dear life is what is necessary. “My soul cleaves after you” is the literal translation! It includes submissive faith in God’s plan and an active pursuit of God. If you aren’t clinging to Christ, you are clinging to the wrong things.
“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” vs. 8
I love how Elizabeth George uses the metaphor of a tree’s roots to describe the strength and support that our private time in scripture reading and prayer provides:
“Just like a plant with its roots hidden underground, you and I –out of public view and alone with God–are to draw from Him all that we need to live the abundant life He has promised His children (John 10:10) We must seek to live our lives near to God–indeed, hidden in Him!” A Woman After God’s Own Heart, pg 30
What we do today determines how we weather our wilderness! What steps can you take today to realign your heart to Christ? What lesser things need to go to make room for the most important relationship in your life? Whatever it takes, do it!