Pondering Wilderness and What Keeps Me There

10735069_540584329410251_947510518_n“He led me into the wilderness not to harm me but to refine me. How we view God will determine the difference between how we view this.”

This thought lit up in my mind the other day as I was on a call where the 40 year wilderness experience of the Israelites came up. I had been thinking a lot lately of my past seven years and the journey I have been on.

Perhaps these years have been my wilderness, too?

Yet, what has kept me in the wilderness all these years? Perhaps it is the same reason why the Israelites stayed in the wilderness for 40 years themselves… unbelief.

“So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter His rest.” – Hebrews 3:19

Unfortunately, I have long positioned my time in the wilderness as some sort of real life penalty box and that it was some sort of punishment surely for something I had done, thought, or said. That God led me there to harm me and judge me and to abandon me. How many of us view the wilderness that way, too?

The sad thing about this is that we then think the only way out is by our own efforts as if to prove ourselves to God that we are worthy. Yes, the same God who “has us there” to harm, judge, and/or to abandon us in the first place.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Why was it so hard for me to believe that God was who He said He was? How many of us keep ourselves shackled up in chains within our own wildernesses year after year after year?

Sure we say all the right things, but in our heart of hearts, we believe all the wrong things.

What do the rights things look like?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:16-17

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” – Deuteronomy 31:16

Perhaps what has kept me in the wilderness for so many years is what kept the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years.

Perhaps when I awaken tomorrow morning, it would do me good to take heed to these words again found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 3:

Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
    as Israel did when they rebelled.”

Perhaps what allowed me into the wilderness was a purpose to refine me. Yet perhaps what has kept me in the wilderness has been a hardened heart with a purpose to rebel me?

Could it be that my lack of traction over time in life as I seemingly go round in round within my own wilderness has been from a hardened heart?

As I think back on these many years, and especially those where I have made posts to this very blog, I too have gone around and around. I have been so close so many times, but yet, I always seem to step back from the brink of belief to my safe place of unbelief.

I can never seem to get over the hump of my own unbelief. It’s like the only way to get there is by proving it.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Perhaps the only way to get there… is to finally stop here. The only thing I have proven is that “said” belief is much different than “lived” belief. Belief is not belief until it’s belief.

Lord, may my prayer be that of the father found in Mark 9.. “The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!””

Oh Lord, I surrender. Heal me now. Restore me. Refine me. Hold me.

I do believe.

It’s funny, my prayer seems to be the same. But, my heart is different. How I view God is different too.

re·fine: to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing, to make improvement by introducing subtleties or distinctions, improve (something) by making small changes.

“He led me into the wilderness not to harm me but to refine me. How we view God will determine the difference between how we view this.”

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