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Into the Wilderness Devotional, Day 3: The Wilderness is Where God Transforms His People


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 3: The Wilderness Is Where God Transforms His People

The wilderness always changes you. 

On the television show LOST there was plot point about a character desperate to go on an Australian “walkabout.” The character believed that if he could go spend time in the Australian wilderness he would come out the other side a changed man. Unfortunately, his attempt to go on his walkabout only resulted in deeper pain and discouragement. He came away changed, but not for the better. He found that the problems of his life didn’t change simply because he took them with him into the desert. If anything, they only became more obvious. 

The wilderness seasons of our lives can have the same effects on us. The issues and problems we face -- marriage issues, addictive behaviors, spiritual struggle -- can become more obvious and more pronounced in the desert. And it can be easy to believe that time in the wilderness is pointless, hopeless, and only leads to pain. 

But in the story of Exodus there is an added ingredient to the wilderness that changes everything: God himself. 

One of the things we see frequently in the wilderness is that God uses those wilderness seasons to change and transform his people for their good and his glory. When God is at work in his people, wilderness seasons aren’t wasted, they’re often very intentional times of God changing his people. God’s people spent 40 years in the wilderness, but it was not wasted time. In the desert they are transformed from people who are fearful and afraid to a people ready to take the land. They learn what God is like and begin to become like him. They learn what it is to live in the rhythms of God’s laws. 

One scholar comments that, “Through their encounters with God in the wilderness, Israel was formed and forged as a people.” I love those two pictures. I think of forming a jar of clay on a potter’s wheel. It goes from a lump of clay to a useful and beautiful tool.. Or think of forging a sword as a blacksmiths takes the rough piece of metal then applies heat and blows of the hammer to transform it to something powerful and useful. 

Wilderness seasons often feel like this: the pressure of the potter’s wheel, the heat and blows of the blacksmith’s forge. But it’s not pointless. God is forming and forging us. 

In fact, this is God’s purpose for all our life as his people here in the wilderness. We live in the gap between the first garden of Eden and the second garden of heaven. And God means here in the wilderness to transform us more and more. 

Often a question we ask is, “What is God’s will for me?” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 answers it this way, “This is the will of God for you: your sanctification.” Sanctification is a word that means growth in holiness and Christ-likeness. God’s will for us in the wilderness of life is that we be transformed to look more like Jesus. That often isn’t easy or comfortable, but it is powerful and it is good. 

What if you saw this wilderness season as an opportunity for transformation? What if you could look back a year from now and see that God intends to make you a more resiliently joyful person? What if you could look back from 5 years in the future and this wilderness season as a time God put steel in your spine and a smile in your heart until you could give thanks in any circumstances. What if you knew God would use this season to loosen your grip on sins and patterns you should let go of? What if you could see clearly how this year would deepen your marriage and family ties and friendships? Would it be easier then to embrace what God is doing today, or this week? 

God has a purpose and plan for us in this wilderness season and that involves us being transformed into who he has made us to be.