Embracing your “wilderness” might seem hard to fathom, especially when you’re right in the middle of it or when it also feels like your wilderness is in the depths of the valley – your lowest point.
These two (the wilderness and the valley) don’t always take place together, but the uncertainty that is felt with either sometimes makes them feel interchangeable or interwoven.
It’s seemingly difficult to imagine all the purpose which is actually manifesting itself out of the experiences of the unknown. But honestly, it’s actually more likely to happen that way than you think. In fact, I would argue that the wilderness and valley are necessary elements in discovering your place of purpose…that something that fulfills you. The thing you’ve hoped for, dreamed of, and prayed about. However, before you get there, there are some details you must know and some lessons you must learn to help strengthen and SUSTAIN you once you get to…THAT PLACE.
Evidence of the Promise
After the years of wilderness and valley I had experienced, who would have thought that I would begin to truly see the promises I believe were deliberate for me? Yet, here I am, having now authored my second published book. This time, a children’s book. But this book and journey to completing it are just what I believe God intended to produce through me from the very beginning.
I had done a lot of praying in 2019 for God to give me wisdom and peace concerning His next plan for me. If I wasn’t to continue on the path I was on and the life and career I had become accustomed to…surely, He had a strategic plan that would eventually make sense. And I’ve said this before… Despite how dark my days sometimes seemed, I still had enough faith to believe that God hadn’t brought me that far… just to bring me that far.
The Brain Storm
As I reflect on my own life, it’s incredible to me how God sets things into motion as only He can–through DIVINE intervention. He wasn’t lying (because He can’t) when He said, “His ways aren’t our ways, and His thoughts aren’t our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). I don’t know about anyone else, but… for THAT PART alone, I’m grateful. Because your girl’s thoughts are sometimes all over the place. Fleeting thoughts…scattered thoughts…overthinking thoughts…stagnant thoughts…anxious thoughts. Can you relate?
The mind is something else. On the one hand, it can get you into trouble with doing way too much, and on the other hand, it can make you second guess everything you thought you knew; and then do absolutely nothing. The hope (I guess) would at least be that we end up somewhere in the middle.
When we put all our own mental energy into trying to figure things out for ourselves, we’ll find ourselves even more frustrated. It actually feels like a storm – a literal brain “storm.”
Prior to one of my biggest life storms, that’s what I had been doing. Trying to think of how I could make certain aspects of my life work with my strength. Not that it was intentional, but I’m a thinker and an organizer. In the natural sense, I like the ability to control my own narrative, or at least be in on it. But life doesn’t always work out that way.
Remember the Children of Israel when they were led out of Egypt? They could have gone a simpler route, but the Bible says they would have faced other opposition they were not yet prepared for, so, God made a direct highway for them by parting the Red Sea. Who of them could have seen that coming? Really?! Walking (or running) through the Red Sea on dry land. Unimaginable, right!? But that’s just verification that God didn’t just start doing strange and unusual stuff. His performances began when He spoke into the darkness, “Let there be light,” and light appeared. I’m gonna come back to the light part later. But light had never existed until He spoke it.
None of the things that are currently taking place in my life existed until I thought, spoke, or wrote them down.
Seriously! If anyone were to look through my old journals, you would find references to some of the things I’m currently experiencing. I prayed for them, asking God to reveal His purpose for me and to allow me to align with His will.
“You have to be careful what you ask God, because He listens and remembers.”
When I prayed some of my previous prayers, I thought or hoped they would come quickly and easily, but that surely wouldn’t be the case. They have come out of storms and what sometimes seemed like utter chaos.
Not Your Average Exodus
Can you imagine how frightened the Israelites must have been fleeing from slavery, running straight to the shores of a giant sea? Surely death was imminent. Then, just when they thought all hope was lost, the very thing that could have naturally consumed them OPENED UP and made a path for them. And after they went through the sea on dry land, it closed behind them, consuming their enemy and blocking their path of ever returning to what was familiar to them. (Let that sink in.)
They couldn’t go back. They were forced to take the path in front of them…the wilderness.
Wilderness by Definition
I have written about this a little before…
The wilderness – uninhabited, undisturbed, empty, pathless, wild, or uncultivated growth.
Notice the terms that describe the word wilderness. It doesn’t say the wilderness is uninhabit-ABLE; rather, the wilderness has never been inhabit-ED. There’s nothing already there, and there’s no one there but you. So now, looking at the definition, I actually get hopeful; because it seems to me (again, based on the definition) …the wilderness…is full of possibilities.
I even like the part of the definition described as “wild or uncultivated growth.” That part seems to be giving us clues as to what CAN BE, and nothing and no one can stop it. It’s just you against you and what you believe you can or can’t do. Literally.
So, for those of you who know the story, you know it was the Israelites who prevented themselves from coming out of the wilderness.
Ohhhhh…they whined and complained so…and at times, saw nothing beneficial about being in the wilderness. Never mind the fact that they were no longer enslaved. However, some longed for what was familiar (bondage) versus having faith in what was new for them (the Promised Land).
The Children of Israel COMPLETELY forgot all about the Red Sea experience and doubted that the same God who had delivered them from what would have killed them could also keep them in a place that was unfamiliar…to them (not God).
Yep! Can you believe it? They even struggled to trust a God who rained down manna from heaven to feed them, and because of unbelief and complaining, the Bible says they wandered in that wilderness for 40 years on a journey that should have taken them 11 days.
For my own journey, I was already very familiar with this account. In fact, LITERALLY, the night before my life as I knew it met my storm, I had given this same story as encouragement and an example to someone else; and I remember that night crying out in prayer for their journey because I felt such a heaviness.
What I didn’t know was that, in retrospect, I was preparing and praying for myself. I was giving myself instruction, and God allowed me to recall my very words and this exact scripture reference to help me through my own soon-to-be wilderness experience. And as awful as I felt, I somehow knew that allowing God to lead was vital…AND…the only option.
Please understand…I could not fathom giving 40 years to the wilderness. “Aint nobody got time for that.”
Follow the Signs
That next day and in the weeks ahead, I would meet my own Red Sea and cross through it, and it would close behind me for me never to return; then, I would immediately find myself in the wilderness. Unfamiliar territory. Pathless. Empty. Seemingly desolate. I would have to rely strictly on God for His guidance. Only He had traveled where I was going, so I would have to follow His lead. Fortunately for us, God is good at giving directions, but we must heed His signs.
It’s true. Much like we experience with driving, life gives us signs too. Have you ever realized that when it comes to driving and getting a driver’s license, an individual must pass the written test of signs and understand road safety first?
Think about it.
Some people take the test several times before they pass it, but until you pass the signs test, you are not allowed to take the driving portion. So, the thought must be…driving is the easy part; however, you can’t be permitted to be on the road until it is known whether or not you UNDERSTAND THE SIGNS.
Life is similar. We can wake up and just live from day to day, but if we don’t follow the signs for good and safe living, we will have some difficulties.
Detours and Construction
If we were driving and did the same thing (not follow the signs), we would probably have some accidents or citations for failing to comply with the signs. And in the world of insurance, it would eventually cost us lots of money to recover from reckless driving. Understand, failure to follow the signs of life or reckless living can cost us too.
Our goal in life is to stay clear of collisions, but we can’t always avoid the detours.
Construction is usually always necessary at some point. Though inconvenient for a moment, upgrades and repairs to the road are beneficial to us all.
I went through a significant and seemingly inconvenient detour to get where I am today, but now that the road is clear (for now), the repairs have been outstanding and beneficial to more than just me.
My detour and reconstruction have allowed me to become stronger in my faith, have a stronger marriage, build my confidence, start a business, write two books, and strengthen my own mental health. It has allowed me to cultivate relationships and ventures that I would have never fathomed or even had time for if I hadn’t met my storm…wilderness…Red Sea…valley. Whatever you want to call it.
Either perspective you consider, just know they can’t be avoided. They are NECESSARY.
For Everything There is a Season
Here’s another way of looking at life’s processes… When we think about the natural seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall), they all have their own unique attributes; and each of us probably has our favorite of the four. But the truth is (and we can see evidence of this fact more and more each year), all four seasons are necessary for the normal cycle of nature. When we experience unseasonal weather, it throws things out of alignment. Melting where there should be ice, perennial flowers that bloom before their intended time, or crops whose growth is stunted because they didn’t receive the complete germination that they should have.
If we can visualize it, fall comes to help the roots preserve their nutrients for the leaves and branches so that the winter cold won’t stunt their growth in the spring. The winter comes and dries up everything from the last season, and some things go into hibernation. As we begin to transition into spring, March winds and tornadoes come through to blow those dead things away, making room for the April showers to saturate the ground and the roots and seeds that have been lying dormant. All so that what is intended in the new season can spring forth with the newness and beauty that is intended.
I hope that this is encouragement and clarification for you.
If you feel like you might be in a dry season, consider that the best of you is being preserved for the new season of abundance that you can’t see yet. Even though some things or people have fallen off or away, or it seems that some things have dried up, know that it’s only because you can’t take them into the next season. They’ve served their purpose.
That wind of confusion or uncertainty that seems to have blown into your life, IT TOO… is needed to ensure that nothing old will hinder what needs to break through the surface in your new season. The showers (or tears) that just won’t seem to dry up are saturating the soil of the seed that has been germinating within you for the new purpose you will birth.
I often share my belief that we all are in a constant rotation of the 23rd Psalm. Think about it. We are either in the green pastures experiencing the abundance, beside the still waters resting and getting restoration or on assignment towards the path of our purpose.
But as scripture tells us, after we get on the path toward our purpose, the next stop is the “valley of the shadow of death.” But as my husband made clear in a message, it’s the valley of the ‘shadow’ of death. It doesn’t say ‘the valley of death,’ but rather, the ‘shadow of death.’ You got that, right? It’s a shadow, y’all! Don’t be afraid. It just appears bigger than it is.
But I’ll take it a step further now and add… How do you get SHADOWS in a valley? Well, it’s simple. In order for the valley to cast a shadow, there must be lights. (Remember I said we’d talk about light again?)
Be assured, my friend. God brought you to this place, and His light guides you just in the direction you’re supposed to be going. Don’t be afraid. The valley isn’t intended to destroy you. It’s intended to teach you and build your faith and confidence.
“…thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4
You see! We learn lessons in the valley. And no matter how we might try, it’s impossible to avoid the valley experiences. Do you know why? The valley is the only way to get to the table.
What’s so significant about getting to the table? The table is where we get our heads anointed. What does that mean? The anointing brings renewed strength and new assignments. Then, goodness and mercy follow us to our next assignment once we leave the table. Fortunately, the Good Shephard is providing us with direction, and we go back through the process all over again – abundance, restoration, journey, valley, table, anointing, and new assignment. REPEAT.
Currently, I can’t say for sure exactly where I am in my rotation journey. Sometimes I feel like I’m making the rotation daily; other times, I feel like it’s more spread out. Regardless, I know and trust the Good Shepard to lead me.
Yes, the wilderness is unchartered territory, but it’s mine for the asking.
Honestly, every day I hope to have a little wilderness action…and a little valley experience. I want to trust God more and more each day, and it’s easier for me to do the more I yield to the fact that I don’t know what I am doing or where I’m going. It’s only Him who is doing it through me.
Thank you, God, for the storms, wildness, and the valleys. Thank you for shielding me, guiding me, and providing Your light that never goes out as I use it to assure my footing through my wilderness. Thank you for your light in the storm that serves as a lighthouse so that I know you are near. I thank you, God, for your light through the valley that lets me see and know by its shadows just what I am up against as I make my way to Your table.
God help me to steward well the assignments You are giving me; the assignments that were destined for me on the other side of my Red Sea. Thank you for closing doors behind me so that I could realize that the only place I could look was forward.
“I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley.” ~ Song of Solomon 2:1
My Dearest Sisters
Let this be an encouragement to those of you who may be trying to understand the season you’re in, just came out of, or the one ahead. Trust the process. God will bring you just where you’re supposed to be. If the way seems uncertain, dark, and dreary, I speak LIGHT to you. Receive and walk in the confidence that was intended for you. Though it sometimes seems impossible to get to THAT PLACE, take courage. You will get there. Just keep following your personal GPS (God’s Positioning Season). ~Dawn
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. I hope this message has brought some value to you. If it has, COMMENT and tell me about your LIGHTS IN YOUR VALLEY. How did you handle it? If you struggled in your wilderness experience, what do you find most challenging?
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