Right now the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness. After being released from slavery in Egypt, having God deliver them through the Red Sea, getting fed by God with manna and quail as well as water from rocks, and being given commandments for living abundantly directly from God Himself; the Israelites still struggled with following God. Because of their complaining, grumbling, and disbelief they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
The wilderness, in many ways, was punishment--a purgatory to trod through until they died. God was still present with them, but it wasn't life as it should be.
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Two weeks ago, my children and I were hiking in the Ozark mountains in northwestern Arkansas. It was in the 70s and sunshiny. We enjoyed the wilderness, soaking in the Spring.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, we're on the verge of yet another snowstorm while we're halfway through April to May. It's a little depressing. While I generally go for cooler weather over intense heat, I'm longing for some sunshine and flowering blooms.
The wilderness in Arkansas was refreshing. The more metaphorical wilderness in life right now is dry and hard. It's not exactly where I want to be. There are a lot of tough things, it's dismal outside, and though God is present I don't always feel it. I don't feel as connected as I desire. I want more; I want to feel refreshed in the wilderness; I want to enjoy what's around me.
The world kind of feels like its in that wilderness place as well. Bombings in Boston, threats of war from North Korea, gun violence in schools, human trafficking, abortions, broken marriages, children born into poverty...
I don't like seeing what's around me all the time. I want the wilderness to be paths through the mountains where the dogwoods are in bloom, the fern fronds are unfurling, and water drips over rocky ledges. Instead it sometimes feels like that desert place where it is barren and lifeless and seemingly hopeless.
Yet, I know God is present. I may not feel Him right by my side, but I can look back and know that He's always been there. He's been faithful. And I can trust He's with me through wherever I journey.
Though the world is in a place of pain and suffering, I know that somewhere God is present. I don't expect everyone to get that or even believe the same. I just know my experience--that no matter how bad it's gotten, God is there to pull me through it. It doesn't mean life is easy or even enjoyable all the time. It does mean that the wilderness is manageable.
The wilderness doesn't go on forever. And there are many places of beauty along the way--not to mention adventure.