The wilderness. We read about it in Scripture and we think we know it. The dry land with no food. The bitter water. The wandering and the complaining. The loss of hope, and the desire to return to slavery, because that would be more bearable than the wilderness. The fear of hearing the Lord, and the refusal to let God speak. The impatience and the golden calf to worship. We think we know the wilderness.
The faithfulness of God. We read about it in Scripture and we think we know it. Manna and quail; the cloud of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. The promise land. The shining face of Moses. We think we know God’s faithfulness.
I thought I knew the wilderness and thought I knew God’s faithfulness.
But I didn’t; I didn’t know either until yesterday.
Yesterday morning I woke up at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the wilderness that the Israelites wandered through. I have been in many desserts, but never had I been in a place like this. Jagged mountains were all around us, the sun beating down on the rocks and the sand. Nothing but jagged rocks and burning sand could be seen for miles in any direction. We drove and drove and drove and it felt like we would never get out of that dry and sweltering place.
As I looked out the window I kept thinking “this is nothing like I expected.” The wilderness never is.
I have just come out of one of those wilderness times in my life. It was awful. I had no idea where I was going or what I would be doing. I was bitter and I was angry. I complained and lost hope. I was afraid to hear the Lord.
But in January of last year, the Lord used an obedient man of God to speak to me.
As we were worshiping, Bob, a virtual stranger, placed his hand on my shoulder and said “Elizabeth, I have a word for you, you might want to record it so that you can hear it again.” I pulled out my phone and pressed record. I’m glad I did, because those words from the Lord became my manna and sweet water.
“Elizabeth, I looked over at you and it was obvious that God was really touching you. What I felt like the Lord said is that he has put you in a straight place in this season. It’s not like you’ve been off the rails or anything, but actually He’s putting you in a straight place for this season because He’s taking you deeper not only into His heart, but into your purpose and understanding your call and what He has for you. I felt like the Lord said that there’s a real shift taking place in your ministry, even that to which you thought you were going back to will shift. I even feel like there will be a geographic shift, but the Lord wanted you to hear this “for out of Zion the Lord’s voice goes forth,” so whats been put in you in that place has helped bring you to this place where you are now. You’re in a bit of a confining place, but the Lord says it’s a good place because on the other side there’s a broad path. I just see this opening up, this brightness… I don’t know if you like the beach, but I see you on the beach and it’s sunny and it’s warm and it’s radiant. It’s broad up and down the beach and you’re no longer in that confining place. But for now you’re still in a season where God’s going to keep you in that narrow place, but it’s for the greater purposes that He has.”
The promise sunk deep into my heart. It reminded me that my suffering was not purposeless and that it would come to an end.
This morning I woke up in a hotel on the shore of the Red Sea. I stepped onto the beach and had to shade my eyes from the bright, radiant sun. I turned to look down the coast and a rush of emotion hit me like a tidal wave.
I was literally standing in His promise; no longer confined, no longer struggling.
By His faithfulness He had delivered me through the wilderness. He brought me out and has placed me once again on my broad path.
I laughed and I cried. I praised the Lord!