Something I have learned while wandering the wild places of the US and Canada is that the wilderness is not our final destination. God uses the wilderness – it’s often where He chooses to speak with us, to grow us, to create relationship, and to bless us. God even draws us out into the wilderness to reveal Himself to us.
But the wilderness is not our ultimate destination. It’s a place of rest or a place of learning along the way. After we have spent the time necessary or available there, we must move on back to the places God has told us to be – our everyday lives.
In I Kings 19 we find Elijah running into the desert. His goal, initially, was to escape those who wanted to take His life. When God saw what he was doing, God provided food for him and sent him even further into the desert, to a cave in the very Mount of God. There God displayed His majesty and His character to Elijah. But the desert was not Elijah’s final destination. When God finished revealing Himself in the wilderness, He sent Elijah back to his everyday life as a prophet – to anoint kings and successors and to the people of Israel who still set their hearts on the Lord.
David also fled into the wilderness, as did Moses. Both of these men spent years roaming the wild and arid places. They learned of God there; they also learned practical skills that would be helpful to them in their lives in the future. But their ultimate destination wasn’t to live out their days herding sheep or living as nomadic raiders. God called them out of the wilderness to lead nations.
The wilderness can seem like an inviting place once we have met God there, once we have experienced Him and His creation. It can be a place of escape from everyday life, a way to interact with God, to learn of Him, to build relationship, to become the people that God has in mind. But like Elijah, David, and Moses, the wilderness is not our final destination, even in this life.
Somehow, we must find a way to transfer what we have learned from the wilderness into our everyday lives. To take the relationship built with God into work, school, and home life; to continue to live in the reality of His presence we have experienced in that place.
You see, the wilderness is merely the beginning, not the end – the beginning of trust, the beginning of faith, the beginning of relationship. We can go out into it again and again and again, to be refreshed and restored, but the relationship has no depth unless it comes back with us, unless the changes worked there become evident in the way we live outside the wilderness.