The Wilderness

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
— Matthew 4:1-2

There often seems to be a wilderness in between God's promises and their fulfilment. In other words a period of waiting, isolation, struggle and other unenjoyable things.

Joseph was given a vision of everyone bowing down to him when he was 17 but then for the next 13 years or so he was beaten up, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused and went to jail. I reckon while he was sitting day after day in that jail cell for years he must have thought back to those prophecies and wondered how much more wrong he could have been. But then at the right time God released him into his destiny.

Abraham was told he would be the father of a great nation but it didn't happen straight away. He had to wait. As he waited his faith began to waver and he ended up sleeping with his slave girl. But then at the right time, God fulfilled the promise.

Moses murdered a guy and ran off to the wilderness and he spent years there before God called him for his specific purpose. Clearly the man that went into the wilderness was a different guy from the one that came back from it.

The Israelites in Egypt were told they were going to a land flowing with milk and honey but unbeknownst to them they would spend 40 years wandering around in the wilderness before they reached the promised land. It could have taken a few weeks but God kept them in the wilderness until they were ready for it. The wilderness needed to do its work.

David was told he would be King of Israel as a boy but spent a large amount of time thereafter on the run for his life, hiding in caves and as the Psalms testify, feeling pretty depressed and lonely. But at the right time he became King.

Prior to Jesus starting his ministry around 30 years of age he went out to the wilderness alone and there Satan tempted him and put him through the mill. It was only after completing that 40 day period in the wilderness with flying colours that he stepped into his ministry.

Between the promise and the fulfilment there will be character building trials, struggles, despair, isolation and faith testing periods of waiting which is often the hardest thing of all. So if you're waiting on a promise and you're currently in a struggle, nothing unusual is happening. That's exactly what needs to happen. We need the wilderness first because the wilderness prepares our character for the destination. Acts 14:22 says that "we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God." [emphasis added] In a way this whole life could be thought of as the wilderness that prepares us for the eternal Kingdom of God. The greatest Christian heroes were the most faithful sufferers and it's truly one of the pinnacles of Christian existence when we are able to worship God in our pain. When you can do that, you're ready. So take heart from your present trials and even rejoice in it because it's not without hope or purpose. Nothing with God ever is. It's all working together for good and preparing us for a future. As Winston Churchill said, if you're going through hell, keep going. Because the destination is on the other side.