Into the Wilderness Devotional, Day 2: The Wilderness is Where God Meets Us
Everyone has their own experience during this pandemic season, and some may feel this more than others. But to one degree or another, we all feel that this year has become a little less cultivated, a little more inhospitable. And we’re all wondering where to find the path through this season. The good news is that there is a well-worn path: the path of the wilderness in Scripture.
Day 2: The Wilderness Is Where God Meets Us
There’s a small story tucked away in Genesis that illustrates a profoundly important truth about the wilderness. It takes place in a dark section of the Bible where Hagar flees into the wilderness. She was Abraham and Sarah’s former servant who had been deeply sinned against by them as they used her to try to create an heir. She was treated as property and used sinfully. But then she had sinned against Sarah in return. Desperate and broken, she fled into the wilderness.
Now in terms of the biblical story of Genesis, Hagar was relatively unimportant. She wasn’t the mother of the child God promised. Should God should take notice of a broken confused victim and sinner in the wilderness? But we read this: “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness.” In this context the “angel of the Lord” means God himself. God meets her encourages her, gives her purpose, and she says when she departs,“Truly here have I seen him who looks after me.” God sees her, goes to her, meets here right where she is.
Often we look around at the wilderness and feel abandoned or lost. We might feel like no one knows of our private struggles here, even God himself. But we actually find the opposite. The wilderness is no obstacle to God meeting with us. And in fact, God often delights to meet people in the dry and dusty wilderness.
We see this again and again across the storyline of the Bible. God meets Moses in the wilderness after Moses kills a man and flees there. When God’s people leave Egypt and head into the wilderness God meets them there and is present with them in the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke. God meets David in the wilderness when he flees from Saul. God meets Elijah in the wilderness when he flees for his life and falls into deep depression.
In fact, the picture we get is that the wilderness may be barren of many things but it has one thing in abundance: God himself. When God sends Moses to Pharoah with a demand to free his people he states it this way: “Let my people go, that they may worship me in the wilderness” (Ephesians 7:16). The wilderness may be barren but it is the place God has chosen for his people to encounter him and enjoy relationship with him.
I remember a couple memorable times my dad took me fishing. I discovered I didn’t really like fishing. I didn’t like the worms, I didn’t like the smelly bait. I didn’t like the boring waiting by the water with no computer games or TV. And when we caught the fish I didn’t like their creepy wriggling little bodies. But when my dad asked me if I wanted to go fishing again I said yes. Why? Because even if I didn’t like anything about fishing I knew I’d get a whole day with my dad. I wanted to go back to the fishing spot not because I loved that spot but because I knew my dad would be with me there.
We may not look forward to the wilderness but we can look forward to one thing: God will meet us there. In fact, sometimes the absence of other distractions has a way of giving us the opportunity to encounter God in a uniquely powerful way.
In this pandemic season we may be in the wilderness, but God meets his people in the wilderness. What grace that in the midst of this broken and bruised world God goes to his people, he sees them, he finds them.
Perhaps reading this you might feel like you’re in your own private wilderness. Maybe no one knows the unique struggles and challenges you’ve faced over the past few months. Maybe you’ve felt the loss of routines or joys or relationships. But could it be that you’ll find something beautiful and worthwhile here as well? Could it be that here in the wilderness you’ll find that God is ready to meet you in a powerful and unique way?
God has a purpose and a plan for his people in wilderness seasons and part of that purpose is meeting his people in a unique and powerful way.