Seasons of vulnerability, emptiness and uncertainty. Endless stretches of delays. Detours. Disappointments. These seasons are hard. But they are also temporary. The real test behind these trials is how we choose to steward them. Last week, I shared a glimpse into three years of my life where I encountered one hardship after another – over and over – in my personal life, professional career, physical health, broken relationships, and shattered dreams (How to Face Your Wilderness – Part I). There were times when it all just seemed too much to bear.
Little did I know those darkest years would become the most life-giving, beautiful years of my life because He wanted me to reach that place of desperation. You may currently be right smack in the middle of a season of emptiness, waiting, uncertainty and brokenness. Exhausted from the heartache and grief, and feeling so emotionally bruised.
As I sought support from my family and friends, they encouraged me to seek His strength, wisdom and comfort through the pain. They challenged me to choose to trust God’s heart even when I couldn’t see His hand working. And in that process, God taught me three lessons from my word of the year (GLORY), and the Hebrew root (kavod) of its meaning:
(1) Abundance, (2) Weight, and (3) Majesty
1. ABUNDANCE – Trust that God is still a God of Abundance, even in the desert.
Even when our circumstances change, God still remains the same. He is still our protector, defender, and provider. If we seek Him first (even above our exit from the desert), He will speak abundant truth and love into our hearts. Looking back, my season of wilderness was actually a place of ABUNDANCE and life! During this time, I heard God speak more clearly and frequently than ever before. His Word came alive and ushered forth a wellspring and overflow of wisdom from the Holy Spirit (which led me to start teaching a women’s Bible Fellowship Class at church, and actually helped inspire this blog!) Sometimes I even told friends I couldn’t hang out because I wanted to go home and read my Bible! My renewed communication with God is what allowed me to still lift my hands to heaven and praise Him, even if my heart was crushed in tiny pieces and my Bible pages were stained with tears.
We clearly live in turbulent times. But God’s character never changes. Since the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God has manifested himself to be a “God of abundance.” A God who both creatively and lavishly pours out life. Who are we to understand the depth and breadth of His ways? In times of scarcity and drought, we can still trust the God who is abundantly and faithfully working behind the scenes!
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”Exodus 34:6
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.II Corinthians 9:8
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.Ephesians 3:20
2. WEIGHT – Dig up sin that’s weighing you down, and exchange it for the weight of God’s glory.
In times of quietness and waiting, we have more time to reflect. These seasons of emptiness can often be life-giving opportunities because we have the space and solitude to do some spiritual digging. Any emotions that rise to the surface are always indicative of something deeper! Maybe it’s doubt? Envy? Bitterness? For me, shame, fear, and broken identity rose to the top. I asked God to examine my heart, and I was surprised to excavate some hidden sin that’s been buried deep and fossilized for so long. God taught me that my value was not contingent on my success or failures, or upon how people treated me. He showed me how my materialism and image consciousness were actually idolatry because I was glorifying myself above God, and seeking comfort and value in other things besides Him. He humbled me by unearthing my stubbornness and pride. He taught me that I wasn’t fully loving people the way He does. He also revealed the freedom that flows when we take off our shame and embarrassment, and replace it by putting on the covering of God’s grace.
In the end, I exchanged the weight of my sin, for the weight of God’s glory. And that new weight was what brought me to my knees – Never before was I in such total awe and wonder of who God is. In your season of wilderness that may seem to lack any roots, security, or an end in sight – you can still be WEIGHTED and anchored by the glory of God!
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.II Corinthians 4:16-18
3. MAJESTY – Let go of your plans, so His majesty can prevail.
Of course, no one wants to be in the wilderness, thousands of miles away from the pretty picture you imagined how your life would be! If you’re like me, maybe your first instinct is to fight it and frantically claw your way back on track before people notice. How much of this is rooted in pride? For me, God brought me through my wilderness season so my pride and plans could shrivel up, in order to make room for His MAJESTY to prevail. Like a pillar of fire leading us through the desert, God will guide and guard us. And in doing so, His glory will also be seen from afar. If we submit and surrender our own plans, we can allow God to transform our testimony so that it, too, will be a blazing beacon of His glory that can be seen from a great distance.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.Psalm 96:3-6
And when people see you and hear your story, the world will know the Lord God you serve.
After all these “wilderness lessons,” I learned that the worst that could happen to me actually was not failure, or job loss, or singleness, or a medical diagnosis. The worst that could happen is that in the midst of these battles, my allegiance would be shifted from being a woman of faith to a woman of fear. That’s the real test. And by the end of the third year in the wilderness, my heart no longer cried out to God to be rescued from the wilderness, I cried out to Him that I would be worthy of it. And those years were the most beautiful, cherished years of my life, because God and I walked through that desert together hand in hand, radically transforming my heart with every step.
And He can do the same for you.