My husband recently taught a discipleship class at our church called How People Change. I am sure many of you who are biblical counselors are familiar with Tim Lane and Paul Tripp’s book. The curriculum is just as excellent as the book and I have been thoroughly enjoying it! The class has taught me how to respond biblically to the heat (trials) that comes into my life and into the lives of the women I counsel. When we don’t respond biblically, our hearts are revealed and we will not produce fruit; but wither and dry up with many lasting consequences. When we respond well, looking to Christ as our sympathetic High Priest who will give us the grace and mercy we desperately need, we are being sanctified and will bear fruit. The Bible is a wonderful book of redemption that points us to Christ as our rescue and help in time of need. No matter what trial you are facing, Christ makes a way of escape for us so that we can endure it and give God the glory.
One of my homework assignments in the class was to read through Deuteronomy 8:2-3 and explain how God uses wilderness wanderings in the lives of His people.
And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you, let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
So, what is God up to in your wilderness wanderings? Let me share with you what I learned about this passage for application in my own life:
1. God uses the wilderness of our lives to help us remember the Lord.
I don’t know about you, but when I am in a trial, I have the tendency to place my focus on myself. Trials should remind us that the Lord is good, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love to those who love Him. We need to be thankful and look back and call to mind what the Lord has done for us in bringing us to salvation and what He is presently doing in our lives. God brought His people out of slavery, and He is still in the business of doing that today. Let us not be like Israel and grumble over our manna, but remember the Lord and not question His faithfulness to us.
2. God uses the wilderness to test you to reveal your heart
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Just like the nation of Israel, God is testing you and me so that our hearts will be revealed. This is so we may be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. If you ask God for wisdom in the trial, He will give it to you and show you through the Holy Spirit where you need to grow.
3. The wilderness should humble you
As we go through the wilderness, we need to realize that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, let us draw near to God in the midst of adversity and He will draw near to us. Trials help us to see that we are weak and cannot do it on our own. Humility is utter dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ and will keep us from becoming haughty and relying on ourselves.
4. He feeds you with Manna and points you to Christ.
As we go through the wilderness, we need to be reminded daily of God’s provisions. How ungrateful and grumbling we can be through trials and forget all that the Lord has provided for us in our time of need! We question God’s goodness and fail to live out what we say we believe. Also, manna was given to Israel not just for physical food, but pointed to spiritual realities as well. Jesus says in John 6:32 that He is the “true bread from heaven.” The manna given to OT Israel was only meeting temporal, physical needs, but Christ alone is our “true bread” that gives us eternal life that satisfies us spiritually. Christ is the food that will help you endure and sustain you for eternity.
Let us run through the wilderness with endurance, the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith. When Christ went to the cross, He went with joy, knowing the future reward. Christ suffered and experienced the wrath of God so that we don’t have too. Please don’t grow weary in the wilderness, but respond by remembering the Lord, who rescued you out of slavery and redeemed you!