For some of you, especially the outdoorsy ones, the wilderness is where you go to connect with nature. When you hear the word “wilderness”, it evokes in you pictures of beautiful hiking trails, warm campfires, tall trees, fresh air, and sleeping under the stars.
That is not the wilderness that we find ourselves in today.
It’s a symbolic place where you are tested physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For many, it is a place of instability, where many of us feel lost.
It’s our reality right now, and it’s hard. For some, the wilderness journey began when school was cancelled and now all students need to do online schooling. And it has become a real challenge for many students and teachers.
For some, the wilderness journey began when they lost their jobs, or their businesses.
For some, the wilderness journey began when they had to shelter at home and be disconnected from their friends and family.
For some it began with flu-like symptoms.
And you may have been in the wilderness way before COVID-19 was introduced into your life. You had mental health issues, money was tight, your marriage was falling apart, you were failing at school or at work.
And the stress of instability, failure, loss, depression, and pain became your wilderness experience.
There are characters in the Bible who went through their own wilderness journey. I believe we can learn something from their experiences to help us as we navigate our own wilderness experiences.
One of those characters was Joseph. You can find his story in Genesis 37-50.
At one point in Joseph’s story we find him at home, and his brothers out with their father’s flock, in the wilderness.
Jacob, Joseph’s father, tells Joseph to find his brothers and Joseph agrees. Of course he would. This could be another chance to rat his brothers out and kiss up to his dad. You see, Joseph and his brothers did not have a good relationship. They didn’t like Joseph because he was a tattletale and a spoiled brat.
When Joseph came to Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the open country. “What are you looking for?” the man asked. Genesis 37:15 (GW)
Have you been wandering while you are in the wilderness, unsure of what you are looking for?
During this pandemic, I have found myself, a few times, wandering around my house. I would hate to have seen an image of myself during those moments. And I have felt lost, not remembering why I have entered a room or what I was trying to do. Has this happened to you?
The wilderness can put you in that state. Not sure of what to do with yourself, walking around without a purpose, not sure of what to do next.
But the question that the man asked Joseph is a crucial one.
“What are you looking for?”
While we are in the wilderness, we must constantly ask ourselves this question. Because in the wilderness we lose a sense of purpose. We lose vision. We become forgetful of what we were made for.
Never forget, especially in the wilderness, that you were wired to pursue and find God. Remember these words by God spoken to you through the prophet Jeremiah:
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)
When you feel like wandering, remind yourself of your pursuit of God by asking yourself, “What are you looking for?”
And then answer that question by pausing your wandering, and restarting your pursuit of God. That will get you back on track.
To hear more about Joseph’s journey into the wilderness, click on Chaplain Milton’s message below.