“Sent to the wilderness for a purpose is difficult to comprehend. Haunted by the why’s and how’s, the confusion and unknown compels us to look deeper. “
Moving from being chosen by the wilderness to being sent makes us, okay, honestly it makes me twitchy. When we find ourselves in this unknown and desolate place, we are prone to questions.
When someone else finds themselves in a painful place, sorting through unwanted circumstances, I’m guilty of flippantly tossing out Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (ESV)
Before you give in to your urge to smack me silly, let me explain myself.
We are quick to pull Jeremiah 29:11 out of our magical memory hats, because let’s face it, it is the most natural thing to say to someone who is suffering. It is also the most offensive to the one suffering.
The Wiersbe Bible Commentary says this about Jerimiah 29:11:
“God makes his plans for His people, and they are good plans that ultimately bring hope and peace. Therefore, there is no need to be afraid or discouraged.”
Jeremiah is speaking to the Jewish people who had turned away from God and exiled to Babylon.
However, for me, the wilderness feels like being exiled to a foreign land.
Sent to the wilderness for a purpose is difficult to comprehend. Haunted by the why’s and how’s, the confusion and unknown we are compelled to look deeper.
We don’t get the big picture view or a telescope into the future. However, we have the story of Elijah in the book of Kings.
Investigating Elijah’s story may help us with ours.
Elijah comes on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1 and delivers a message from God to Ahab. “As the Lord God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!”
As quickly as he appears Elijah is instructed by God to leave.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him; ‘Leave here, turn eastward, and hide at the Wadi Cherith where it enters the Jordan.'” 1 Kings 17:2-3 (CSB)
God sent Elijah to a place described by Bible Study Tools as one of the wildest ravines in this region. Sound familiar? This place you find yourself; it feels like a wild ravine for away from anything that resembles your previous life.
When the wadi (stream) dried up God instructs Elijah to get up and go to Zarephath where he finds a widow and her son.
The widow is preparing the only food she has left.
Elijah stays there around three years until God gives him further instruction.
Just as we cannot see our big picture, Elijah cannot see his.
Through the Word of God, we have the little details and the big picture. There are two sides to this story; God’s and Elijah’s. We can learn how to redefine the wilderness through both.
What can we learn from Elijah?
- Elijah follows God’s instruction without questions.
- Elijah is obedient in the unknown.
- He is faithful in the unknown.
- He is quick to call out to God.
- Elijah prays earnestly.
- He trusts without question.
I Kings 17:5 tells us “Elijah proceeded to do what God said.”
I don’t know about you, but I am prone to negotiating a different path. However, Elijah does not-he obeys without question, without a map, without a life plan, but with a willingness to trust his God to protect and provide.
My first thought is Elijah is a superhuman prophet of God.
James 5:17 points out, “Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly.”
Elijah, a human being just as we are, sent into the unknown trusting and obeying God. Can the same be said for you and me?
James 5:17 also says, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
Do we honestly believe this?
What can we learn from God in this passage?
- God goes ahead of us and prepares the way. (1 Kings 17:4-6) We know this, but do we live as if we believe it?
- God provides. (1 Kings 17:4-5) Elijah was provided water from the wadi and food was brought to him morning and evening by the ravens.
- In 1 Kings 17:9, again God prepares the way by already commanding the widow to care for him.
- In 1 Kings 17:14 God provides an endless supply of flour and oil for food.
We cannot leave here without first acknowledging the miracle God performs through Elijah.
In 1 Kings 17, verses 17-24, the widows’ son falls ill and dies. Elijah earnestly cries out to God, and the boy comes back to life.
According to commentary, this is the first recorded event of the dead brought back to life.
Let’s come back around to Jeremiah 29:11. If we believe God is good, that his plans for us are good, his purpose for us is good; then we have no choice but to trust him.
Trust, obedience and earnest prayer will meet us where we are: in pain, loss, the unknowns, and uncertainties.
We are sent into the wilderness that we may grow closer to God through earnest prayer, absolute faith, unwavering obedience, and trust.
Oh, Father, open our eyes that we may contemplate wonderous things from your word. Give us the grit and grace to live our stories in a way that reflects you.
Your Wilderness Guide,
PS: If you have been following my Instagram Stories by now you’ve heard about the H.E.A.R. Method and H.E.A.R. Journal. I would love to have you join me on this journey. The H.E.A.R. Method of studying the Bible has taken me more in-depth than ever before! If you would like to learn more email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: My first book, Mornings In The Word is available now. Order your copy today.
“There is no space to live well or love well, much less pursue the God who created us to be in fellowship with Him. We close the gap between what we need and what we want with more. Our spinning lives and broken hearts are empty while appearing full. We paste a smile on our face and tell anyone who asks we are okay while inside we are shattering a million different ways.” -Mornings In The Word