How often have you walked through a season of life that feels purposeless? We all have them at one point or another – those wilderness seasons. And we wonder in those times how God could possibly use this wilderness season for anything good.
Today, February 26th, is the start of a wilderness season on the Christian calendar called Lent. Lent is a time to remember the 40 days Jesus spent in his own wilderness season.
We’ll get to more about why Christians celebrate Lent later in the post, but for now, know one thing:
You are standing at the beginning of a wilderness season today. And perhaps that feeling of standing in the wilderness is all too familiar to you.
Well, my dear woman, these next 6 weeks of Lent are for you. I want us to enter this season knowing how God uses the wilderness times of our lives.
And thankfully, Scripture includes stories of people journeying through wilderness seasons so that we can learn from them.
So let’s start by looking at the beginning of Israel’s own wilderness story and ask, why did God lead the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years?
And through that we’ll be able to see how God uses the wilderness journeys in all our lives.
Table of Contents
Using the Wilderness Backwards
I’m sure you’ve heard that hindsight is 20/20, and the phrase certainly proves true in how God uses wilderness seasons.
At the beginning of difficult seasons in life, we wonder what’s ahead and how much trial we’ll have to endure.
Then comes the middle, where we are weary from questioning God and angered at His seemingly slow arrival.
Finally, the end, where we often rejoice looking back at how God used the wilderness to mold and shape us.
But what if looking at wilderness seasons through hindsight isn’t the only way to view them?
Today we get to do this, because we get to look at a wilderness season with God’s end result in mind.
Now, let’s turn to Israel’s story.
- What season of life are you in today?
If you’re in a wilderness season, use this post to reflect on your own life. If you’re in a season of abundance, think of a woman who is struggling right now and how you can use the truths in this post to encourage her.
God Using the Wilderness for Israel
The past three weeks we’ve been traveling with the Israelites in Exodus. We’ve followed their journey from slavery to freedom, where they go straight into – you guessed it – the wilderness.
Those stories bring us to the beginning of where we are today, Israel’s wilderness season. And, they teach us about the spiritual health of our brain, eyes, and mouth along the way.
Now, in Exodus 16, Israel is standing on the edge of the Wilderness of Sin. That wilderness is where they will journey until they reach the land God had promised them.
We’ll return to Exodus 16 next week, but today, we’re going to put into practice what we just discussed:
Understanding how God uses wilderness seasons by starting at the end of one.
To do this in Israel’s story, we’re going to a book called Deuteronomy. Here Moses was speaking to Israel right before they entered the land promised to them by God. This is where we’ll discover how God was using the wilderness for Israel.
In Deuteronomy 8:2, Moses tells Israel,
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
And so, at the end of their 40 years in the wilderness, Israel sees the desired result:
The shaping of their hearts.
This is how God uses the wilderness.
- When you’ve gone through wilderness seasons in your own life, and reflected back, what lessons has God taught you?
- Did you find God changing your heart through those seasons?
- If so, how?
Why God Uses the Wilderness
Well, it didn’t take us long to discover how God uses wilderness seasons in Scripture- to shape what’s in people’s hearts.
But the issue goes much deeper than a quick read of a Bible verse.
You see, when the Bible talks about our heart, it’s talking about the deepest part of us. Yes, it’s the symbolic place we feel emotions, but it’s much more than that.
It’s the place where we discover the depths of what drives us.
Think of it this way:
Your heart contains not just your emotions, but why you feel those emotions. Why you rejoice when you rejoice and get angry when you get angry. Why you rebel and why you are faithful.
God led Israel through the wilderness to shape the innermost part of them. To shape their hearts to desire God and His commands above all else.
It’s never easy to let God test and humble us. It certainly wasn’t for Israel.
But it is necessary.
God uses the wilderness to shape our hearts towards Him.
This is the end view of wilderness journeys. This is the view we need from the start, not just the one we see at the end.
- How often do you reflect on the motivations behind your emotions?
- Your actions towards others?
- The words you say?
Take a moment and ask God to take off any blinders you might have concerning your heart’s motivation, and reveal the deepest, truest parts of you.
God Using the Wilderness for Your Heart
Let’s pause now, and reflect on our own hearts.
As you do this, here’s my question:
- What’s your deepest desire, in the innermost part of you?
- What drives your emotions, your will?
It isn’t an easy question to answer, especially if we’re approaching the question honestly.
Many of us would like to say our deepest desire is what Israel’s should’ve been – to honor God and follow His commands.
But if we look at the true state of our hearts, the outpouring of our emotions into our actions, we’re more likely to find a self-centered desire. And that self-bent desire is usually revealed when we’re walking through the wilderness with God.
But please, don’t receive this reflection as a time of condemnation, my dear woman. It’s quite the opposite.
Because it allows us to draw closer to our Father and to love Him above all else.
That’s what Moses desired for the Israelites as the end result of their wilderness journey, right before they received the land God promised them. And it’s what God desires for you as well – that each step you take in your wilderness journey would strip away all that’s drawing you further from God.
So, with this reflection in mind, let’s return to talking about Lent. Because today, we can walk intentionally into a wilderness season knowing this from the start:
We want God to shape our hearts toward Him.
The Why of Lent
At the beginning of this post I mentioned that today, February 26th, is the start of a season called Lent. Maybe you’ve heard of Lent in regards to fasting, or assumed it’s a practice only Catholic Christians do.
At its foundation, Lent is a season on the Church calendar that lasts from today (called Ash Wednesday) until Easter Sunday.
Still, you might be wondering why Christians celebrate Lent to begin with.
As already mentioned, the 40 days in between now and Easter Sunday are symbolic of the days Jesus spent in the wilderness.
I like how the Village Church phrases it, that Lent “became embedded into Christian tradition as a time for the Church to symbolically follow Christ into the wilderness.”
And so today, standing at the beginning of a wilderness journey, I want to invite you to walk straight into it.
Together, I want us to follow Jesus’ lead and step into that wilderness with purpose and intention. Then, as we move from the beginning and walk through the middle parts, let’s keep the end view in mind:
We can walk through this wilderness with God, allowing Him to shape our hearts to desire Him above everything else.
Over the next 6 weeks of Lent, it will be vital to remember the truth we unpacked today: God uses the wilderness to shape our hearts towards loving Him more deeply.
We love you, dear woman, and because of that, we want to see you fully embracing God’s love and commands. But often, fully embracing that love means learning the hard lessons that come with wilderness seasons.
So in the next six weeks we’ll challenge you.
Challenge you to dig deep into the innermost recesses of your heart, of who you are.
Let’s allow God to shape our hearts, emotions, mind and will. Because there’s abundant life waiting at the end of this wilderness season. Easter is coming.
On Friday we’ll explore the science behind how our emotions and desires affect the physical health of our heart, so stay tuned for more heart-changing information in the coming days.
Until next week...
I want you to hold onto a verse from Deuteronomy, the days after Israel’s wilderness season.
Deuteronomy 2:7 says this:
“The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”
Here are a few additional wilderness and lent resources we’d recommend.