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  • Writer's pictureEphemeral & Faithful

God Knows Your Years in The Wilderness

I've been struggling with yet another difficult health challenge, and was feeling rather down the other morning as I grappled with trying to work through hours of medical care. Frustrated and in pain, I turned to read my Bible as focusing on God and His promises always grants peace to my heart despite the struggle. Strangely, I found myself turning to Deuteronomy...I rarely turn to Deuteronomy for my daily Bible time. I randomly flipped to Deuteronomy 2:7, and immediately knew God was guiding my studies of Scripture as He walked with me through my wilderness.

For forty years, the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness after being enslaved in Egypt. It was a harsh transition from the viewpoint of the Israelites as they had just spent their lives under the heavy head of the Egyptians torturing them and their families. When they were finally set free from Pharaoh's control, surely nothing could've been more relieving and miraculous in their eyes. I imagine that as they ate the unleavened bread and worshipped the holy Lord during the first Passover, there were some butterflies of anticipation and excitement as they dreamed that anywhere else would be better than Egypt. But then Moses began to veer in a direction that seemed far from a dream land. Horrified, they begged Moses for an explanation of this disastrous change of course, "They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?" (Exodus 14:11) Yet in God's eyes, leading them through the wilderness was done from the pure love in God's heart as He desired to protect the Israelites from both the the fear of war of the Philistines and thus the Israelites' subsequent return to the abusive environment of Egypt.

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle." ~ Exodus 13:17-18 (ESV)

During the forty years that the Israelites traversed the wearisome wilderness, they endured many trials, one after another, which are documented in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy: terror from the Egyptians' pursuit to the Red Sea, encountering only undrinkable bitter water after having no water to drink for three days, fear of death from hunger, another bout of extreme thirst, and frightening wildlife such as deadly scorpions and snakes. Even the wilderness is described as "great and terrifying" in Deuteronomy 8:15. Yet, through all of these horrendous tribulations, God never once let the Israelites slip through His fingers of lovingkindness and care. Maybe you're thinking, "How on earth are the permissions of these encounters God exhibiting lovingkindness and care?! That seems rather opposite!" At first glance, you might be right. But delve deeper into the Scriptures documenting the forty years in the wilderness, and you'll find that the Lord cared for every one of their needs, though the care was likely far off of what the Israelites would have wanted. He guided them away from the Egyptians' pursuit by way of a road through the Red Sea. He made the bitter water sweet and drinkable when God told Moses to throw a log into it. He gave them just enough provisions of manna to feed all of them with not one lacking. He provided water once more via a flint rock struck by Moses' staff. He led them through the wilderness full of wildlife. He even went down to the details of not allowing their clothes and shoes to not wear out nor their feet to swell (Deuteronomy 8:4). I don't know about you, but I can barely keep a t-shirt from getting worn out within one year, and I experience extreme inflammation with only ten minutes of standing upright. God tended to every single need they Israelites had during their trial: food, water, clothes, health, and protection. They truly lacked nothing.

"For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”’ ~ Deuteronomy 2:7 (ESV)

These trials were nothing but good. Yet again, another pregnant pause of confusion as we try to grapple with these trials being good. By whose standards are these good?! By the standards of the only One who matters. As mortal humans, our outlook of what is good is tainted by the standards of selfishness and sin. We view good from a skewed lens of external benefit, whereas God views good from the lens of internal sanctification. God allowed these trials to do good to the Israelites, but not for their external good, but for the internal good of building their character and solidifying their trust in the Lord Almighty. We must trust in God, and submission to His will is vital to cling to in the fires of the wilderness as He helps shift our skewed lens to a more accurate lens of what is His definition of good.

"And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." "...who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end". ~ Exodus 8:2, 16 (ESV)

Sometimes I feel that I was born into the wilderness and have yet to exit it as I've battled multiple serious chronic illnesses such as a genetic, terminal disease, a horribly painful spinal disease, and an unimaginably difficult neurological disorder. Massive struggles in the wilderness. Lately, it's been blow after blow of medical trauma and trials, with scarce experience of triumph. More journeying in the wilderness. Like the Israelites, I too have ashamedly grumbled, complained, and gotten angry in the midst of my trials. I recently experienced a difficult progression of my neurological disease called dysautonomia. Another allowed time in the wilderness. Yet, through all my times in the wilderness, I have never lacked anything due to the graciousness of God. For instance, during this stretch in the wilderness, He used others to provide a recumbent bike, therapy equipment, street wheels for my wheelchair, and special crutches for intensive rehab and daily use. He provided a wheelchair accessible downstairs apartment area in my family's home just before my medical emergency occurred, thinking of every detail including a kitchen so I can still enjoy my passion of cooking and a large closet for my extensive amount of medical supplies. He provided a loving family to help me daily tote my wheelchair up and down the stairs to and from the car so I could go to work and enjoy some outings and help me with daily tasks. He provided vital medication to control cardiac issues, IV hydration to help manage blood pressure and severe dysautonomia issues, and tube feeds to help provide nutrition as my body fights hard daily to stay alive. He provided friends who were willing to visit me at home since leaving the house is a challenge. He provided me with a job, a boss and staff members that are willing to accommodate my medical needs, help me, and accept me, flaws and all. Did I imagine needing to use a wheelchair to get around due to sudden progression of a neurological disorder? No. Did I imagine needing tube feeds and IVs hooked up to stay stable? No. Did I imagine needing to do 8 months of challenging intensive rehab therapy? No. Nothing has gone as I desired or imagined, and I wrestle with accepting another day in the wilderness. Yet, have I lacked during this indefinite time in the wilderness? No. Through it all, though my external world and body crumbles to pieces, I believe that God will use these trials to build up my internal character and refine it through the fire of my years in the wilderness, just as He did with the Israelites, which is of more value than any of the provisions He has graciously granted during this wilderness trek.

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)

The Lord knows I'm going through the wilderness. He has been with me and continues to be with me. I have lacked nothing. He sees, He cares, and He provides. What is your wilderness and will you trust in the same God who provided for the Israelites in Deuteronomy 2:7? He knows your wilderness. He is with you. You will lack nothing according to what God believes is best as He loves you deeply and fulfills His will, even if it seems that He has veered off course and led you into the wilderness for your own good as defined through His lens of internal sanctification. For some, there will be a only brief time in the wilderness before reprieve is granted. For others, the wilderness will continue until they are called home to be with the Lord. No matter the allotted time in the wilderness, we are all promised an exit from the wilderness into an eternal life with Jesus in Heaven and made whole, our faith refined into gold by the fiery trials. There is hope and grounding in Christ even in the wilderness, no matter how deep into it you may be.

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