When The Wilderness Is Real

There are very few true wildernesses left in the world. Certainly not within easy reach of me here in Appomattox County, Virginia. If Moses had to lead the Israelites to The Promised Land today, he’d have Siri, MapQuest and GPS technologies available to him. They’d cross the Jordan River with little delay.
So, relating to the prophet Isaiah’s wilderness passages might be harder for us than it was for someone in Jesus’ day.
“…I will make a way in the wilderness…” God promises in Isaiah. But we hardly ever need God’s help through physical places of wilderness in the world.
Looking down from this hillside at James River State Park, I see a wild profusion of trees, bushes, meadows, marshland and the bluff rising steeply above the opposite bank. There, too, is the river, itself, glimpsed in flowing snatches between the white-trunked trees. There is a feel of wilderness and the surrounding howl of coyotes last night emphasized that impression. But, then I turn around and see the cabins, the cars, and the paved roadway in the morning’s light.
And in my hand is a map of every trail through this slice of natural wonder 30 minutes down the road from my home. The trails are also well marked and blazed. If I forget the map, as I probably will, no grave problem will arise.
Still, I believe God’s promise. We all can believe it. God will make a way in the wilderness for us. And I know I need it.
The wildernesses most of us face in our lifetimes are those occasions that make us feel lost and alone. Whether it’s the loss of a job, an illness, the death of a loved one, a decision about where to go to college…or a difficult memory, life is full of wilderness moments that turn our mapped and modern world into a tangled maze.
Such occasions create wilderness feelings inside us and that is where we often get lost. Thankfully, God is there to help us through such times. “…I will make a way in the wilderness,” God promises me, and promises you.
As important as those eight words are, the words that come before them hold the key to following God out of the wilderness in which we are lost and wandering, especially if there is something deep in our lives that we find troubling, something perhaps even years ago that still creates coyote-howling wilderness moments in our otherwise orderly and civilized lives.
“Do not remember the former things,” God urges us, through the prophet’s writing, “or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Those are words that provide us with an internal and eternal map through our wilderness moments. They are words that blaze a trail to what is, in truth, a “promised land” that God offers us all, one that abounds with love and grace.
Don’t dwell on hurts and pains and sorrows, God is telling us.
Have faith in that new thing that God is about to do. Like the leaves budding on the trees and the daffodils dotting the landscape, what God promises will spring up—is springing up now, somehow, if we turn our minds from whatever wilderness has us in its grasp and discover, instead, the God-sent feeling that is springing up in our hearts and in our souls—springing up in that deepest part of ourselves.
God is marking the trail through our trials and tribulations. Let us each journey with faith in that guiding love and grace which leads us out of the wilderness by actually transforming the wilderness, itself, giving us rivers in the desert and turning the howl of coyotes into the sound of cooing doves of peace.

6 thoughts on “When The Wilderness Is Real

  1. What comforting words – reminders of all my wildernesses survived by the caring spirit of those along the way!


    1. Thank you, Jean, and God certainly does send us “angels” in the shape of friends at just the right moment, or an unlikely stranger whose wings we cannot see,


      1. Yes, those Angels so often have appeared in many many forms in my 96 years. I enjoy your writing that helps remind me.


  2. This is so applicable to my situation at the present. I have lived 89 years so far and intend to travel to attend a celebration of my younger and only sisters life in Chandler AZ the 19th of April. I am an Episcopalian from 60 plus years ago and so have diligently with God’s help, made the most of all my experiences in San Antonio, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Kansas City. Having loved the liturgies growing up and going to church with my friends in Joplin Mo. I have been blessed in too many ways to enumerate. I loved the April Fool paper and wanted to share with my friends here in the retirement community.

    I hope you will be writing again.in Forward. That part of Virginia sounds so lovely. My ancestors began there in the 1700’s – earlier I think.
    May God continue to be your pal as you walk this part of your journey with our Lord. In Christ’s Healing Love, Jean Kinmonth


    1. God bless you, Jean, for the kindness of your heart, shared with me today. You bless me. I hope to write for Forward Day By Day, too. They have asked to me to write something for their Advent book coming out in the fall and I have done so. I appreciate your affirmation so much. Safe journeys to you,
      And God’s grace,


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