Sometimes allegories can be taken too far, and such is the case with the teaching that says that God sends his children, and even the church at large, into “wilderness seasons” to accomplish a divine purpose.
The New Testament, which is the authority for doctrine regarding the Christian life, instructs us to enter into the holiest (the presence of God) by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). The book of Hebrews also tells us to come boldly to the the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.~ Hebrews 4:16
Both of those text from Hebrews are given within the context of Jesus as our great high priest, who ever lives to make intercession for us.
There are times in all of our lives when we experience unpleasant circumstances that can make us feel as if God is has forsaken us. It is in those times that we learn to trust God and walk by faith, rather than our circumstances.
God “never” withdraws the fellowship of his presence to send us into a wilderness experience to test us. God redeemed us by the blood of Christ and has called us into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9. In 1 John 1, the apostle John tells us that our “joy is made full” by our fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
The real truth is, sometimes we drift away from personal fellowship with the Lord, and only when we begin to have difficulty in life do we wake up and realize we have drifted away from the fellowship we once enjoyed with the Lord.
In the book of James, we are instructed to draw near to God and he will draw near to us. In the context of this statement James says the following: “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” ~ James 4:5
The Amplified Bible gives a much clearer rendering and reads as follows: “The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit to be welcome with a jealous love.”
Oftentimes we become preoccupied with other things and judge God’s blessing in our life by our circumstances. Rather than allowing the peace of God to rule in our hearts as Paul instructed the Colossians, we become ruled by our circumstances, and by and by we drift from the Lord and become more carnally minded in our thinking and our approach to life.
When this happens, we are no longer ruled by God’s peace. Instead, we are ruled by our feelings and emotions. This is why we need to be “renewed in the spirit of our mind”. ~ Ephesians 4:23
When we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, rather than being ruled by the carnal desires of the flesh, we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit who ministers to us the joy of true fellowship with God.
How can we say that God has sent us into a “wilderness experience” when the New Testament tells us God’s Spirit yearns for us to fully welcome him in our hearts?
When we become preoccupied with carnal things like the audience to whom James was writing, we allow sin to have place in our lives (our thoughts and actions) and we become double minded, and it is in that place that we begin to wonder where God is.
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. ~ James 4:1-4
James is not talking to the world in the text above. He is talking to Christians who have drifted from the Lord and are preoccupied with their carnal lusts rather than the things of God.
While we are wrapped up in the desires of the world, and consumed in the lust of our flesh, the Holy Spirit earnestly yearns over us with a jealous love to be fully welcomed in our hearts.
James instructs his audience to draw near to God and adds the promise, “and he will draw near to you”.
However, that which is often missed is how James instructs his readers, who had drifted from God, to draw near to God. James says, “cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
When our affection for God begins to grow cold, we become double minded and it is in that place that we begin to wonder where God is.
The truth is, God is right where we left him, waiting like the father of the prodigal son in the story given by Jesus, desiring for us to return to fellowship with him.
There is nothing in the New Testament that supports the idea that God leads his any of his children, or his church at large, into wilderness seasons where we feel forsaken.
The writer of Hebrews expounds on the wilderness experience of the Israelites in contrast to the Christian life of “resting in faith” to which we are called. God did not call us to walk in a spiritual wilderness. He called us to enter into rest (from the wilderness experience) through faith in Jesus.
In scripture, the wilderness is associated with sin. If fact, the Bible calls it the “wilderness of sin” (Exodus 16:1; Numbers 33:11,12).
The wilderness is called the wilderness of sin because it was the place where the children of Israel provoked God in their disobedience.
7.Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation IN THE WILDERNESS:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
11 So I swear in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. ~ Hebrews 3:7-13
If you feel like you are in a wilderness, I have good news for you. If you will but turn your heart towards the Lord, and cry out for his mercy and grace, asking him to cleanse you from any sins you have permitted to take root in your heart and life, he will meet your right where your are.
God is not leading you into a wilderness, rather he wants to lead you out of the wilderness. He is a loving father and he longs to show you mercy and grace, and for you to experience the joy of fellowship with him, as you allow the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ to rule in your heart.