Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Wilderness Experience

It goes without saying being a Christian is very much a journey. There are plenty of mountaintops as well as valleys you must encounter. One part of the journey that we will all experience sometime during our lifetime is the wilderness experience. Whether we physically go to the wilderness or symbolically, we will all go there. It’s a very biblical concept. Jesus faced his wilderness—his 40 days alone where he had to overcome temptation and sin. Also, during Jesus ministry, he had to withdraw from the people and get away.

Recently, I went to the physical wilderness. I’m talking about totally off the map. No cell phone service or hi-fi spots. Yes, I’m talking about getting back to the basics. There are three things I learned from my wilderness experience that helps me to better understand my relationship with God.

First, the wilderness experience helps us listen to the voice of God. Out in the middle of nowhere, there are no distractions. It’s just you and God—a simple life. I often ask myself this question, “Is it possible in our advanced society with all of its distractions to really hear what God is saying to us? Even with our best intentions, practically every moment of our lives are filled with some activity. There’s something about getting away from it all that allows us to be in a place where we can hear from God.

Second, the wilderness experience allows us to connect to God and to be in his presence. If you think about it, the society the Bible reflects is connected to nature, specifically the land. God can be found in creation. And part of his creation is the world we live in. But in our modern society we become disconnected with nature and the land.

When I’m in wilderness, I marvel at his creativity. I see God in the mountains, in the lakes and in the streams. I feel his presence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we don’t feel his presence in the modern world; but there’s something special about being in his creation (the outside world)—his handiwork.

Third, the wilderness experience teaches us to depend on God. When you’re in the back country, you might have your compass and backpack, but you certainly need God. You’re miles from any help. You never know what’s going to happen or what challenges you might face. There is no 911 to call. There are storms, weather, bears, etc., who knows what you might face. You are keenly aware that you need God and his protection. I think in the modern world we’ve forgotten this. Our provider is our employer. At the supermarket, we have an abundance of food and supplies. We have no idea where our food comes from. It just magically appears. So the question is, “Do we ever enter into a state where we depend on God.”

Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s time for you to get back to the basics. A trip to the wilderness could be a good thing even if it’s just a couple of days. It can get you back to a state where you can listen to God, connect to him, and become dependent on his provision. As I said, at some point, we will all face the wilderness experience. Perhaps going there will give you some practice in learning to cope and deal with whatever your wilderness experience will be.

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