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A journey in the wilderness

Have you been on a journey through a wilderness? How would you describe it? Was it a wilderness of shame, loneliness, depression, doubt, grief, or pain? While none of us long for a walk through a wilderness – but we can expect to experience one. After all, our Master, Jesus, walked the wilderness. The servant is not greater than his Master!

We also have examples in scripture in which God met with His children in their wilderness walks. Let’s look at three of those.

Hagar’s journey

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are God Who Sees”; for she said, “Have I not even here in the wilderness remained alive after seeing Him who sees me with understanding and compassion?”

Genesis 16:13 AMP

Hagar was a servant, an enslaved person from Egypt. She would have been a nonperson. Her mistress, Sarai, gives her husband, Abram, to have sex to make a son. But when the son is produced, Sarai is jealous and mistreats Hagar. Hagar runs away. The angel of the Lord finds her in a literal wilderness, but also the wilderness of rejection. God searches for Hagar to minister to her, bless her and instruct her. Hagar gives God a memorable name – You are God Who Sees!

Naomi’s journey

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Ruth 4:14-15 NIV

Naomi was a widow. She had lost her husband and sons in Moab, a pagan land. Hers was the wilderness of loneliness and sorrow. Not only does she have no support, but her family line has ended. She returns home to Bethlehem and insists on changing her name to Mara, meaning bitter. In her words, “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, walks with Naomi in her wilderness experience, clinging to her, wanting to help support her. Through Ruth, God changes Naomi’s life, bringing her out of her wilderness, giving her family, and a grandson. I love how the women in Naomi’s life exhort her, praising God!

The Samaritan woman

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 4:39-42 ESV

The Samaritan woman was at the well at an odd hour – about noon. It was not the day’s custom to draw water so late in the day. She was on a journey in a social wilderness, a spiritual one too. Jesus purposefully passed through Samaria, to stop at that well, to ask a woman for water – none of which would have been typical for a Jewish man. Jews believed they would be ritually defiled by being in Samaria, by drinking from their water pots – but of course, Jesus could not be defiled; He sanctified all that He touched. Could it be Jesus sought her out, found her, just as He finds each of us?

When Jesus questions her, the Samaritan woman puts up her best defenses. And despite her sin, because of her sin, Jesus offers her truth, freedom from the shame of her past, and living water! She becomes a witness to God’s mercy and grace, eagerly telling the very society that was shunning her that her life was now an open book.

For you, for me!

I don’t know what wilderness you are walking through today. But I know this one thing! God will search you out, find you, walk with you, bless you, and He loves you more than you can imagine! He offers us mercy, grace, even abundant life! Trust God today! Allow the Savior to lead you!

A blessing for your journey

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of God.

John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us
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