If your life is marked by restlessness and wandering, you may be in the Wilderness.
If you claim to be moving toward heaven, but the reality of your life feels like anything but ecstasy, there’s a good chance you’re in the Wilderness.
If, in fact, you find yourself desiring anything and everything but God and holy things, you may be a Christian in the Wilderness.
Christians in the Wilderness are those who have been set free from their slavery to the kingdom of the world, but who are not yet in the Promised Land. We’re in between.
For 430 years, Israel served as slaves to the powerful nation of Egypt until a dude named Moses was born. He was adopted by the Egyptian nobility and led a comfortable life until he murdered an Egyptian. He spends 40 years tending sheep in the desert. Put yourself into his shoes. Imagine being a shepherd from age 40–80. How many of those years pass by while you think your life is over; anything meaningful you’ve done is behind you and all that lies ahead is a dusty desert death?
Fast forward several years and Moses has freed a million people from slavery and they find themselves once again in the desert: between the land of their exile and the land of their promise. This is exactly where we are.
If you’re a Christian, you are, for all intents and purposes, in the Wilderness. We claim that we have ontologically been freed from our bondage to sin; we announce our victory over death. But we still sin and die.
What the heck?
If you still sin, but your Bible says you’re free from it, you’re in the Wilderness.
Repeatedly in the desert, the Israelites whine and complain, longing even to return to Egypt because “at least there we had food; we ate leeks and potatoes!” How many times have you been freed from a terrible situation, and moments later you look back on it with fondness, wishing to return to the good parts of that state?
I broke up with a girlfriend once, and it was a good thing. We had a toxic relationship which benefitted neither of us. Days after ending it, I lamented to a friend that I missed her and maybe I didn’t make the right decision by splitting up!
“Dude,” he said, “you’re just longing for Egypt. You’re remembering the few good parts at the expense of all the bad things.”
Are you longing for Egypt?
Maybe your testimony includes a ‘Sex, Drugs and Partying’ chapter. Aren’t you tempted — often — to go back to those things? How good did they feel?
We’ve left Egypt but haven’t yet gotten to the land of milk and honey.
If it seems like satisfaction lies just beyond the curve of the horizon, that’s because it does. We Christians look forward to the day that all our wandering will pay off and we can settle on a land and call it our own. To expect this Wilderness to satisfy us is ridiculous; to call it home would be a mistake.
“If nothing in this world can satisfy me,” writes Lewis, “the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Or take Augustine who wrote, “My soul is restless till it rests in Thee.”
These men were aware that this manna (bland desert bread) and sand is not all there is. You can gorge yourself on the stuff, but you’ll never be full. You can talk yourself into falling in love with the sand, but it’ll never produce berries, melons, honey and chocolate.
Are you in the Wilderness?
The mistake many Christians make is thinking that ‘Wilderness’ is just a chapter in their lives. Maybe when they get married, or when they retire, they’ll enter into the Promised Land season of life.
The problem is, there is no Promised Land season of life. The actual Promised Land is beyond the crest of death, and we can, like Moses, only catch glimpses of it from here.
We’re not living in bondage anymore, but we often keep that mentality. We often long to return to Egypt, so to speak, and yearn for the comforts our sin provided.
We’re not in the Promised Land yet, but we have hope of arriving there. We have hope of putting down roots in a land we can finally call our own, where we can work, eat, live and be happy. We won’t find it in this world, it is higher and farther than we can reach, but we will someday arrive in the High Country.
So how do we live while here in the Wilderness? We must shed our mindset that tells us we still belong to the Egyptians, but we must be cautious of expecting the Wilderness to satiate our soul’s hunger.
Live with hope.
Sojourn with expectation and joy.
Bring as many people with you as you can through the gates of the Promised Land.