In January I wrote this post and mentioned I thought I was going through a spiritual wilderness. Sometime last year (probably around October when I lost my job during a lockdown), I began to feel lost and while I was reading my Bible and praying as normal, it felt like God was not close to me. While I trusted Him to provide me with a job, there were also some other things going on around the same time that made me feel alone, confused, and deserted by Him.
On Thursday, I experienced a breakthrough, and what I believe to be the end of that specific wilderness season. It is fresh, and I don’t know what the future holds, but I do feel called by God to write about my experience and share it with you. However, as always, some details will remain private. While I will freely discuss losing my job last year, the other matters mostly involve other people, which makes sharing tricky.
It is also worth noting, that while I do have a new job, none of the other things have changed. The breakthrough came from God, and not from my external situation.
In January, I read the book God, Where Are You?! written by John Bevere. It resonated deeply with me, and it opened my eyes to understanding the season I was in. While not every hardship we face in life means we are facing a spiritual wilderness, the things I had to grow in and the distance I felt from God came together with my external circumstances to create such a season for me.
Late last year, I did not understand the season I was in. Because of this, I did not use the time to grow, but spent my time complaining, looking for signs from God, accusing Him of not loving me, believing I was being punished for something, and striving to be a good person to earn the closeness that had previously come to me quite easily.
My relationship with God, up until that point, had always seemed to be moving forward. I did not struggle to hear His voice and saw His hand upon my life. To “suddenly” be in a place where my quiet times felt too quiet was difficult. My first thought was, am I being punished? I had just lost my job, was in the middle of a lockdown, and had many friendships fading away. I felt lost. I felt like I was wasting time and not doing the will of God because I wasn’t really “doing” anything. I no longer had a full schedule and couldn’t hear clearly from Him to know if there was something more I was meant to be doing.
I began to read and listen to a lot of Elisabeth Elliot. She frequently discusses God’s will, suffering, and “doing the next thing”. Her wisdom helped remind me that God is to be trusted, and that we will not always understand “why”, but that does not make God any less good. What she said encouraged me to direct my prayer life to a place of fruitfulness as opposed to me going around in circles wondering why nothing was changing. My prayers became less about “why is this happening” and “what am I supposed to do” to, “I trust You even though I do not understand”. This did not change overnight and was more like a rollercoaster than a gradual uphill walk.
I began to view the wilderness as a place for growth rather than complaint. I saw it as the opportunity to grow and be refined rather than to doubt.
It is here I will reiterate: not every hardship in our life equates to a spiritual wilderness. This life contains suffering and I am not saying God is the cause of suffering. This world is broken, and we will face loss and hardship, which was not God’s intention upon creating it.
What I am saying is, my external situations combined with not hearing clearly from God came together and brought up unhelpful patterns in my life that I needed to let go of in order to grow spiritually and trust God at a deeper level. Mainly, complaining, comparison, and blaming God as well as a distrust of His will that, by extension, meant I did not really trust Him, either.
Over the last six months, I have been faithfully provided for by God. Things have been difficult, to varying degrees, but even amidst the confusion I had everything I needed. I was not living in abundance. I felt a great emptiness in many things, and in some ways still do. But God is always faithful, and in this time I saw how I am also faithful to Him.
As I said, I experienced a breakthrough during the week. It is, what I believe, to be the end of the wilderness season. While my external circumstances remain the same, other than becoming recently employed, the other situations remain confusing, lacking. But their effect on me is not what it was.
On Thursday during my quiet time in the morning, I felt God’s presence stronger than I have for a while. I had clarity while I was praying and clearly heard His voice. I received leading in what to say in a certain situation; a delight compared to the last six months which felt like I was stumbling in the dark by myself.
During that quiet time, I was feeling upset because I felt like I hadn’t been handling the wilderness in a way that was pleasing to God. I felt like I hadn’t grown or changed at all. It felt like the season was never going to end, and that I would be forever stuck.
But then I looked over a journal from the past year, and I saw firsthand how my prayers and thoughts had changed. My prayers were less self-centred. My want for God’s will was genuine.
During the wilderness period, it was difficult not to become discouraged. Without having clarity in what God was saying, I wasn’t sure how much I was doing “right” or “wrong”. It felt like I was failing, and I would often become upset over not knowing what to do.
The breakthrough came when I looked back and realised how much had actually changed. It felt like the guilt and emotion I had been carrying with me fell off, replaced with God’s peace. The breakthrough came when I let go of trying to do it all in my own strength. When I saw what God had already done in a time I thought was wasted.
I do not have all the answers, nor will it occur like this for everyone. I am also by no means where I want to be. The things I have learned are not my natural disposition; there are still challenges with the areas revealed to me. But I do know that God is here, and I know that He can use everything.
I’m not sure what the future will be like. As I said, my circumstances remain and I am unsure how they will turn out. But I have a renewed assurance in God and His will. I am looking forward to seeing what He does!