Wilderness. It looks different for everybody. For me, wilderness is not having a concrete plan for what's next. It is knowing that I must move forward, but not knowing where exactly I'm headed. It is this sense of wandering with little direction.
I don't like the wilderness in my life. I don't like feeling out of control and I don't like being without a plan. And yet, I often feel God calling me into the wilderness. I often sense that He is saying, "Erin, take that step of faith forward. Take that step away from your comfortable plan and towards the unknown. Step into the wilderness."
As God offers this direction, my heart begins to argue. "Please God. Please just let me stay where I am. Or at least give me some control? Or tell me where I'm headed? Please don't make me wander. Please don't make me put my faith completely in you."
Wilderness is scary. But wilderness is where God works.
I love what Hosea 2 says about the wilderness.
Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. There [in the wilderness] I will give her vineyards back to her and make the Valley of Achor into a gateway of hope. (Hosea 2:14-15 HCSB, emphasis added)
God leads us into the wilderness to speak tenderly to us. It is in the wilderness that He draws us near to His heart, that He reminds us of His unending love for us. It is in the wilderness that we realize that while all of the other loves we may have in this world will fail us, He never will. It is in the wilderness that He restores. And it is in the wilderness that He takes the deep valleys our lives and transforms them into gateways of hope.
Wilderness opens the door to hope.
I'm reminded of the Israelites who spent over 40 years wandering the wilderness. God called them into it, promising hope on the other side. The wilderness rescued them from a life of captivity, but it also forced them to surrender to God. Though it took them a long time to surrender control (40 years...HELLO!), when they finally did, God blessed them with the Promised Land. Just as He said He would.
We have a choice in the wilderness. Will we be quick to surrender? Quick to hand over control? Will we have faith that when God promises hope, He will fulfill His promise to us?
Or will we waste much of our lives wandering through it while holding tightly to control and our own plans?
I don't want to be so wrapped up in my own plans that I miss out on the tender words of my Father. I don't want to be so afraid to walk through the valleys that I miss the gateways of hope.
We must be courageous in the wilderness. We must believe that God has us in that place not to force us to wander, not to punish us, but to romance us and draw us near. To reveal hope in the valleys (Hosea 2:15). To enable us to rest securely (Hosea 2:18). To promise us a forever justice, love, and compassion (Hosea 2:19). To declare us HIS (Hosea 2:23).