Take a moment and think of some people in the Bible who spent time in the wilderness. Moses, Elijah, and David are three that quickly come to mind. John the Baptist came out of the harsh Judean Wilderness and did a lot of his preaching there. Of course, Jesus spent forty very difficult days there as he began his ministry.
Want to really connect with these wilderness dwellers? Search the Internet for photographs of the Judean Wilderness, or the Negev Desert. In a few seconds you’ll be confronted with some of the most barren and forbidding landscape you’ve ever seen. Even with millions of people living in tiny Israel today, hardly anyone lives in the Negev, which covers more than half of Israel’s land area! And no one lives in the Judean Wilderness.
The best way to connect, of course, is to travel to Israel and to walk these ancient paths yourself.
Every time I’m there, I’m taken by the harsh difficulty of the place. Loose rocks cover the ground as far as the eye can see. Shrub-like trees provide the only shade against the sun’s unrelenting heat. Great canyons cut the landscape and offer a constant reminder of dangerous wadi floods. When the floods come, they will come without warning, and without mercy. Every year, it seems, people lose their lives in the flash floods of the wilderness.
No wonder the population of Israel is jammed in the northern half of the country. The southern half is simply too harsh of a place for most people to live.
It has been said that God gave the Promised Land to his people, but that he kept the wilderness for himself. And anytime God wanted to do something great with a person, he took that person to the hard places. If you can learn how to live in the wilderness, depending completely upon God for your survival, then God can use you for his purposes anywhere.
Ever been to a really hard place? One of those wilderness places?
You might even be there now.
If not, the unexpected, unpleasant journey into hard places might come tomorrow.
Whenever it happens, if you find yourself in the wilderness, in some kind of horrible, confusing maze of life—don’t forget the lesson of Jeremiah 6:16.
Stand at the crossroads and look! Ask for the ancient paths; ask for the good way, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. – Jeremiah 6:16
Stop. Look around. Ask for help. Ask for the ancient path, the good way. When you find the way, walk there. Don’t worry if most of the crowd is going in another direction.
Follow Jesus alone. Even if he takes you into the hard places, it is there and there alone that you’ll find the rest you’re longing for today.