Seasons of Wilderness
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
There are wilderness seasons we all encounter at one time or another. Sometimes these seasons can be driven by job loss, health concerns, loss of relationships, grief, depression, poor choices we’ve made, or simply a spiritually dry season. These seasons can often be characterized by feeling alone, maybe rejected, experiencing the loss of something really valuable, being wronged by people with ill intent or a time when life suddenly, and without warning comes to a screeching halt.
These can be disorienting times so say the very least. What we once experienced as our “normal” has now become almost unrecognizable as the days of our wilderness progress. People you once trusted may have been removed, a joy-filled life has now been interrupted by painful feelings that are hard to even try to explain. The isolation and feelings of unworthiness can haunt your dreams and can wake you up every morning while you sit in a desert land. You may have trouble trying to imagine what life, outside of the wilderness will ever look like again.
In Genesis 16, we find Hagar, slave of Sarai and Abram, seated in her personal wilderness. Hagar was innocently part of a divisive plan of Sarai, her master, to conceive a child with Sarai’s husband, Abram. Sarai and Abram had been given a promise by the Lord of one day becoming parents. After ten years of waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, she crafts a plan and requires Hagar to “be” with her husband in order to conceive her child. Her plan is successful, and one would think she should be elated. However, upon the announcement of Hagar’s pregnancy, Sarai’s heart becomes embittered and resentful and she begins mistreating Hagar. Scripture tells us that she mistreats Hagar so terribly that Hagar flees the camp and is found seated in the wilderness alone and pregnant with Abram’s child.
Genesis 16: 7-14
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said,
“Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her,
“Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added,
“I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her:
“You are the God who sees me,”
for she said,
“I have now seen the One who sees me.”
That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
Where have you come from and Where are you going?
These questions, posed by the Angel, are painfully introspective and don’t allow for quick surface answers. You see, the Angel of the Lord is asking Hagar to dig deep into her soul and gain an understanding of two things: What has brought you to this place and who will you be once you leave the wilderness.
When seated in the desert, it’s important to address the needs of the heart while other obstacles have been removed. The Angel wasn’t condemning Hagar for being in a place of despair. Rather, He was asking to be invited into the deepest place of her need.
I think this is such a critical point to recognize within our own time of wilderness.. It can become tempting to spend our days living out scenarios over and again and rehearsing how we could-have or should-have responded to the very situations that have brought pain. These circular conversations may make us feel better in the moment, but they do not help propel us forward in healing.
What the Lord does in Hagar’s life is beautiful. The Angel sits with her in her place of pain without condemnation or judgment. Maybe our desert is the result of the unwise actions we have chosen. Within our regret, we can find a beautiful exchange where His forgiveness can replace our self-condemnation. Regardless of how we landed in the wilderness, if we will remain seated in the presence of the Lord and pour out every thought, feeling, and emotion before Him, He will speak truth and begin our healing process.
Where are you going?
This question intrigued me the most because it allows Hagar, a slave – a piece of property – to begin to explore what it means to have a vision for her life. Before this encounter, I doubt Hagar ever gave much thought of what her future may hold. After all, her life was entirely dependent upon her master’s design, not her own.
When our life has been interrupted and we find ourselves at a stand-still position, it can be really difficult to try and imagine anything but the loss of the past. Just because we can’t see it – doesn’t mean that God hasn’t already planned for it. You see, like Hagar, the Lord had a plan for her that was intended to bring forth His purpose in her life.
There is power in realizing either for the first time or realizing again that the Lord is the one who holds our future. Scripture tells us, “Man/ Woman can make their plans, but the Lord is the one who directs their steps”. (Proverbs 16:9). If we believe that God is more powerful than man or life situations than we must also rest in the truth that He holds the future and is ultimately in charge of our next steps.
This is where our vision shifts, much like Hagar’s did. We see this in Hagar’s life as she says, “You are the God who sees. I have now seen the God who sees me”. For the first time in her life, she realized that she indeed possessed a value that far outweighed her employment as a slave. She was seen. She was not forgotten. She was more than property – she was God’s priority.
When we begin to change our gaze from what brought us to the wilderness and begin to give ourselves permission to see God’s dream for us, it produces a fresh perspective that is able to overpower the hurt that brought us here in the first place.
Upon the Angel’s instruction, Hagar left her seat in the wilderness and went back to the very camp where she had been rejected. While Sarai’s resentment toward her had not shifted, there was a beautiful transformation of truth planted deep inside Hagar.. You see, when she fled the camp, she only viewed herself part of the tribe’s inventory as a slave. After spending her time in the wilderness in the presence of the Lord, her value had been beautifully awakened and she was not the same person who fled.
This represents the painful but necessary process of spending time in the wilderness for each of us. You see, as the Lord meets us in our place of drought, we too can gain His perspective of remembering who we are by encountering Who He is. The challenge is to remain seated in this sacred place and not run from it or resist it until the purpose of the wilderness has been served. Allow the work of the wilderness to refine the heart as only it can.
As I write this, I realize there are many people in a wilderness season that may be reading this post. I want to convey that my heart aches for the wilderness you are experiencing. As difficult as this season is, I want to encourage you to remain seated until the Lord completes His restorative work in your life. He will speak. He will give joy once again. He will give you beauty for ashes. And most importantly, He will complete the story you once thought was over. It’s not over – it’s only a new beginning.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.