The wilderness is a strong image. There are many different ways to imagine a wilderness. It could remind us, on the one hand, of walking in the countryside or in wide open spaces, with animals scurrying around about us in the sun or the rain. It could remind us of the silence of the many winding roads that don’t seem to go any particular place, giving us time to think and pray. This is a positive experience of being in the wilderness. However, the wilderness can also be a place of desolation for us. It can be an internal landscape of worry, problems, sin and perceived distance from God. Being in the wilderness can be uncomfortable or worse.
Our job, it seems, is to bear with ourselves being in that wilderness. Wilderness times are inevitable parts of the story of life.
We see this in the gospels when Jesus is driven into the wilderness. However, we are told that the wilderness was not the end of his journey. He emerged from that wilderness and came out the other side. Not only that, but he grew in the wilderness – he learned something about his life and his mission. We are told that he came out filled with the Spirit of God.
Emerging from the wilderness feels like a remote prospect when we are right in the middle of it. However, our emergence is as inevitable as the rising of the sun on a new day. We are invited to trust that God is with us in the wilderness and that we will emerge with deeper insights into ourselves, the world and our place in it. We need not worry or despair; it is God, after all, who ultimately straightens all paths out of the wilderness
Excerpted from DEEPER INTO THE MESS: Praying Through Tough Times