In the last fourteen years, I have moved eighteen times. Eighteen. I have slept in other people’s homes, I’ve slept on couches, I’ve rented apartments and houses, and been forced to leave for reasons outside of my control. I’ve experienced a nomadic reality even though I knew the Lord had called me to be a mom, to have a family, to have a home, to be hospitable, and to offer a safe place for others who long for a place of belonging. But instead, I only found myself wandering and longing --wandering aimlessly in a wilderness.
The Hebrew language is rich and complex and has more depth than our English language can often communicate in our modern translations. One beautiful instance of this is found in the word “wilderness”. In the Bible, there are many stories and accounts of God meeting with people and speaking to them in the harshness of the wilderness. The Hebrew word for wilderness is “midbar” and it can also mean “mouth”. The depth and significance of this is that God does indeed speak to His people in the wilderness.
...But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. - Hosea 2:14 NLT
We see this truth when Hagar finds herself running away, fearful and unexpectedly a single mom. God appears to her in the wilderness, assures her that He sees her, and speaks a word of blessing over her son and his future offspring.
We see it in the story of Moses, when he ran away from his royal position and found a new home in a faraway place. God appears to him in the wilderness in a burning bush, and speaks a word that propels him into his life’s purpose; to deliver a nation out of captivity.
We see it with the people of Israel who journey through the wilderness. God appears in the form of fire, smoke, thunder. He speaks words of promise, words of deliverance, He leads His people tenderly, performing miracle after miracle to prove His presence with them.
We see it with David, who is both prepared for his future as king (by tending sheep in the wilderness) and the bearing of fruit later in life (being forced to flee from his enemies into the wilderness). In those very barren and desolate places, David writes prophetic, poetic, powerful songs about the Lord throughout his seasons of fear and isolation.
We see it with Elijah, who after victory in one of the biggest showdowns between God and the gods of Baal, flees for his life to the wilderness out of fear of an evil woman. Here, God sends an angel to minister to him, giving him food and rest to sustain him.
We see it as the Israelites are led by King Jehoshaphat into battle in the wilderness against their enemies where God commands them only to worship. And as they worship, their enemies are completely destroyed.
What is it about the wilderness? In Isaiah 51:3 God even promises that He will cause the wilderness to become like the Garden of Eden:
For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
Jesus, our Redemption, our Deliverer, Salvation and King, was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit for forty days. We do not know what all transpired over these forty days, but we do know that He, being the perfect man, was overcoming temptation and preparing for His miraculous ministry that would lead up to His death and resurrection.
What can we learn from these wilderness seasons of men and women of God? If you have found yourself in a season of isolation, loneliness, dryness, loss, emptiness, feeling like things have been stripped away, take courage. It’s in that very place that the Lord often reveals the majestic sound of His voice, the tender provision of miracles, and uses the harshness of the wilderness to shape us into His people of power, prophecy, worship, and ministry. Although in this present season the Lord has finally given me a home and a family, I can testify that the seasons of pain, longing, sorrow, loss and wandering have propelled me into living in a place of perpetual and eternal hope, laden with fruit; the fruit that comes only from walking through the wilderness and meeting with God there.