8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. - Psalm 107:8-9
As children of God, we have to be prepared for the times when He will lead us out into the desert Himself. We know those times are coming because we find multiple examples of them in Scripture - Moses, the Israelites, Jesus. We don't have to like it, but we have to acknowledge there will be seasons when He walks us out into the wilderness. Why would God allow us to walk out in the desert alone, vulnerable to the elements and the attacks of the enemy? Why wouldn’t He just keep us where life is comfortable and our prayers are always answered? Oh, how I wish at times this could be true. But the reality is He does, and we find the reasons why in Scripture. We read in Deuteronomy that God led the Israelites into the desert to humble them and to test them - to know what was in their hearts. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. - Deuteronomy 8:2.
Of course, God knew what was in their hearts all along, just as He knows exactly what is in our hearts. He wasn’t leading them out into the desert to prove they weren’t worthy of His rescue, or to point a finger and say, “I told you so.” He led them out to the desert because He wanted to expose the desires of their hearts so they could see what they were unable to see living among false comforts and foundations. God wants to change us, but He’s not just after a behavior change, He’s after a heart change. Yes, He wants to see a change in our behavior, but what He’s truly after is the heart. And it didn’t take long before the hearts of the Israelites were exposed. They hadn’t even made it as far as the Red Sea and they were begging to go back to a life of oppression. They would rather have lived as slaves than be taken out into the desert and be exposed to the elements - at least the comfort of imprisonment was a known quantity. It can be a terrifying experience to be taken out into the desert by the Lord. It takes an enormous amount of trust and faith in His plan for your life to have the confidence that He’s going to walk you back out of the desert someday.
We think we know what’s in our hearts, we think we know what we rely on as the anchors in our lives, but they’re never truly exposed until we walk into a trial that knocks the wind out of us. Our hearts are deceitful above all things. We want to think we find our stability and our strength in Him, but far too often, we look horizontally for what we should be looking for vertically. We turn to people to reassure us, food to comfort us, money to secure us. We step up to problem solve the trial, and we remind ourselves of the stability we still have in our lives to distract us - at least I still have my job, money, my house, my health, my marriage. But He will take it all away to expose our idols, the things we rely on for strength, the things we put before Him. When you’re out in the desert, alone and afraid, and every bit of stability and comfort has been removed from you, that’s when you see what’s truly in your heart.
In His steadfast love, He will lead us to a season in desert to expose the desires of our hearts because the reality is what is in our hearts cannot be truly exposed when we’re living in comfort. When life is going well, we don’t falter easily. We simply don’t see what our hearts rely on as a foundation until the panic hits in the midst of a trial. God knows. He sees what’s in our hearts. He knows where we go for comfort when we’re challenged. His desire is to reveal it to us so that can root out our faulty thinking, and rely on the only firm foundation that stands. When we’re standing in the desert, exposed and vulnerable to the trial in front of us, he shows us what we cling to in this life. Our time in the wilderness is about learning to let those other things go, righting our priorities, and finding a firm foundation in Him alone.
Beyond clinging to the wrong things as our foundation and strength, we are a proud people who do not live out our lives with humility. We’re told this is one of the primary reasons He leads us into the desert - to humble us. His design for this world would be that it would be filled with great comforters - people putting others needs before their own. But our selfish pride and self-focus gets in the way of that all the time. We need to be reminded of our humility. Some mistakenly define humility as having a disproportionally low view of yourself. Many will take this farther than they even should, putting themselves down or thinking they’re not worth anything at all. That’s not humility. In fact, that’s still having a focus on yourself. Humility is about your view of others. As Pastor James says, humility is not making the least of yourself; humility is making the most of others. Humility is not a self-focused thing, it is a others-focused thing. We are a naturally self-focused people, we are not naturally focused on other, so out we go into the desert to show us how very self-focused we are.
It’s not easy walking out in the desert. I hate it. There is so much of my life from just 7 short weeks ago I long for every day, but I know this is part of His plan for me and for the people in my life. I know He remains faithful to pursue me with His steadfast love, to grow me closer to Him, to humble me and to reveal those idols in my heart that I place over Him. I know. I don’t think knowing any of that makes this season any easier for me, but I do rest in the confidence that He will lead me out of the desert someday soon with a refreshed and renewed faith in all the promises He has for me.
Press on ~ you are loved
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