Merriam Webster’s first definition of wandering states “to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal.” Wandering around is not something I find enjoyable. I am 100% a woman on a mission. I like to set goals, reach those goals, and then set new goals to accomplish. The tricky thing about life is achieving our goals is very rarely a straight path. The second definition of “wandering” from Merriam Webster might be the best fit when thinking about goal setting and what our paths in life really look like: “to follow a winding course.”
This last fall, when it was time to sign-up for a new ladies Bible study group, one of the leaders had selected the study With Us in the Wilderness by Lauren Chandler. As I read a little more about the study to see if it would be a good fit for me in this season of life, I thought that since I loved Lauren’s husband Matt’s teachings that I bet I would like her teaching, too. When I realized that the study was on the book of Numbers, I thought this would also be helpful, because I had never done an in depth study on the book of Numbers before.
Little did I know that within weeks of signing up for the study, I would enter my own wilderness season. I may not have been traveling on foot for forty years with the Isrealites, making my way from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Israel, but I was making my journey from our life of 17 years in Bolivar back to our home town and building a life with our extended families and childhood friends.
If you know us very well, you have probably heard my husband and I say that God had us in Bolivar and we didn’t see ourselves ever moving back to our hometown, because our jobs kept us in Bolivar. We loved the life the Lord had built for us there. However, I also love how the Lord knows our futures and intentionally places truths and experiences on our journeys to prepare us for battles we don’t yet realize we are going to have to fight. When we first made our decision to move back and build a house on family land, we had no idea that the housing market and building supplies would rise to astronomical rates. The healthy budget that we thought we had saved was a mere drop in the bucket compared to the price of lumber in March. Had we heard the Lord wrong when we thought He was leading us back home? We thought we had my job lined up, but things kept getting delayed. Was this really the path that He has led us on? Then throw into the mix a sensory processing diagnosis that we waited months to receive and then start treating. All of these challenges combined made this year of August-May an especially soul exhausting season.
It might sound a little extreme, but based on what I have heard other Christian leaders describe, wilderness seasons in our life can be like a “dark night of the soul.” I fully believe that I experienced my own “dark night of the soul” this last year. I was studying God’s word, praying through our challenges, and being proactive to seek solutions to our challenges daily. However, I could not try any harder, learn any faster, or reach out more to find answers to solve these problems.
Our whole lives were changing. Through this time we could count on two constants:
- My husband, our four kids, and I were going to stick together during this journey no matter how winding the path kept turning.
- The Lord kept encouraging us through our extended family members and friends who helped us walk this journey whenever we started to doubt. They gave us courage to continue taking one step of faith after another even when the future was so uncertain.
One of the most important truths that I learned through this season from Lauren’s Bible study was that all of us are either:
- About to enter a season of wilderness, but don’t see it up ahead yet.
- In a wilderness season of searching for answers, but do not have a clear path out yet.
- Leaving a season of wilderness with answers in mind and the hope of a promised future in sight.
Instead of trying to rush past this season of wilderness to find the answers, do “all the things,” and move to the next phase, Lauren encouraged us to lean into the Lord and His faithfulness during these wilderness seasons. Learn all we can during this time. Trust that God can use these tricky seasons for good, just like He did for the Israelites. If we have faith that God can overcome anything like Joshua and Caleb did as they saw the giants in the Promised Land, we can lean into their confidence knowing that the Lord will defeat the giants on our path, too.
Friend, I am coming to you with a heart of compassion. These wilderness seasons can be the most challenging, because it’s hard to see the end in sight. Whether your wilderness is battling a physical illness, infertility, mental health, learning disabilities, financial obstacles, or relationship challenges, know that the Lord will meet you right in the middle of your wilderness, too. He doesn’t want you to walk through life alone. He has plans for His glory and our good through all of life’s trials.
You may ask how I know this? I know He is faithful, because He has carried me through each wilderness season. Sometimes I may have been kicking and screaming internally, because I didn’t like the path the wilderness journey had taken me. But every time, the Lord has faithfully shown me just how good, faithful, trustworthy, loving, and kind He is. Lean into Him. He will never let you fall. In the words of J.R. Tolkien, “not all those who wander are lost.”
I pray for the reader who is heartbroken and confused over why her wilderness season isn’t over. She tries her best each day to create a breakthrough, but the challenges just keep coming. Please hold her close and help her see Your faithful fingerprints guiding her time in this wilderness season. Please bring other fellow travelers to her, so she will know she isn’t alone on this winding journey. Help others to see Your goodness during this wilderness journey.
In Jesus’ name,