Have you ever felt like you were in a time in your life that really doesn’t qualify as a season, but more as a time ‘in between’ seasons?
You know in your spirit that you have come out of a season of life – whether good or bad – but you just haven’t quite stepped past the threshold leading to the next phase of your spiritual journey.
I have often heard this ‘in between’ time referred to as a wilderness time.
I was uncomfortable with that term the first time I heard it because the term wilderness reminded me of a desolate and unproductive place.
Isn’t it interesting how a perception of a place can change when you are living it instead of looking at it from the outside?!
I am able to embrace the term now because I am living a wilderness time at the moment and the experience of it has proven to be anything but desolate and unproductive.
The Bible gives many examples of wilderness times in the lives of faithful believers:
God brought His emerging Israelite nation into the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt.
The prophet Elijah was brought to a place of rest in the wilderness after one of his greatest victories.
Paul was brought into the wilderness of Arabia for three years after his Damascus Road experience.
It was a tough go for all of them; however, during their wilderness time they all realized it was a time of teaching and training. It was a time necessary to experience so they could be properly prepared for their next God-ordained season.
The common thread among them all was that God brought them into that desert experience because He had great plans for them. He needed time with them alone – way from the noise and influence of the world. He wanted them to learn and rest and gain confidence not only in themselves, but in whom they were in God.
Exodus 19:10 contains a key phrase that put into perspective this whole wilderness thing for me. In this verse, God is talking to Moses and He tells Moses how to prepare the people to be in His presence.
God said, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes.”
Seriously, God wanted His people to wash their clothes!
Remember the young Israelite nation had just come out of a season of slavery in Egypt. God, as He had promised, brought them out of the heavy yoke of bondage they were under for hundreds of years. But God didn’t immediately bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey; instead He brought them into the wilderness.
So, now we have a picture of them in the wilderness and all God wanted them to do at that point was for them to wash their clothes.
I have been told, the reason God requested them to wash was as preparation to meet their Holy God on Mount Sinai. They had 400 years of dirt…of a slavery mindset…of the heavy yoke of bondage…to rid themselves of. God required from them a tangible, yet highly symbolic gesture because the preparation for their next season was beginning.
As we apply this to our own wilderness experience – that often awkward period between leaving, yet not quite arriving – we need to embrace the lesson presented here.
It teaches before we can walk into the next season God has for us, we need to seek His presence in ways we never have before…we need to wash our clothes.
When I look back on previous wilderness times I have experienced, I realize that I always failed to wash my clothes.
I had no time for that! I was too busy trying to escape what seemed like an uncomfortable and unproductive time in my own strength. I sought whatever ‘spiritual opportunity’ that presented itself, and used it as a springboard to catapult myself far from wilderness and into comfort and accomplishment.
Why bother with wilderness times when there is so much to do for the Lord?!!
We ‘bother’ with wilderness times because it affords us the opportunity to wash our clothes and prepare ourselves to receive, at the proper time, our Holy God’s anointing. It is that anointing that will prepare us spiritually to cross the threshold of our new season.
We can, and often do, create our own “next season”, but without our submission to God’s will and His anointing on it, we have just created worldly busyness.
Wilderness time affords God the opportunity to press for our undivided attention. As we enter into His presence and submit to His plan for us, He is able to teach, stretch, grow and mold us into the person He created us to be.
The wilderness is a place of trial and transformation, of purging and purifying, and of groveling and growth.
In Psalm 32:8 God promises, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
If our energy is focused on just enduring or escaping this precious and life-giving time, we will miss the opportunity for wisdom and blessings that will be needed to sustain us during our next God-honoring season.
Use your wilderness time to ‘wash your clothes’…
By heartfelt prayer
By reading and meditating on Scripture
By sharing a cup of coffee (and your ear) with a seasoned sister in faith
By worshiping throughout your ‘routine’ day
By journaling the nuggets of encouragement straight from the Father’s heart
By resting in and enjoying His presence
By being still and embracing that He is God
I have now learned that in order to truly discern the path God has ordained for my life, I need to embrace wilderness times. I no longer pray that they end quickly, but I pray God gives me divine encouragement when the enemy tries to whisper to me that I am in a desolate and unproductive place.
The wilderness is not desolate or unproductive.
It is a place that allows our damp clothes to dry as we sit still, soak in His presence, and allow ourselves to be refreshed.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)