Lessons from the wasteland: Who’s in charge?

Published June 25, 2012 by joypatton

“It’s dead.  It’s all dead,” I lamented to my friend in the parking lot.  “All of my goals, my dreams, my plans are all dead.”  My friend, who is considerably more Type B than me, tried to hide her smile.  She knew that this was possibly the best place for me to be right now.  She was wondering what would be so awful about living without goals or plans.  That night I was staring into my own personal wilderness, a wasteland of nothingness.  Where the things I thought would never change were.  Where all of my efforts and planning had yielded no fruit.  Oh, the drama!  Oh, the complaining!

Little did I know that the same week I would walk with another friend through her wilderness.  Two years ago she and her husband sold their home in Wisconsin to come live near family here in Nolensville.  They rented a house until her husband could find a full-time job.  They lived on their savings and were thankful that their house in Wisconsin had sold so quickly.  Then a month ago, we helped them down-size again into a rented townhouse.  And this week the townhouse literally went up in flames.  I stood there with my arm around her, and we cried as we watched the fire burn.  They have lost almost everything and still no full-time job.  They stayed with us in our basement apartment for a few days, and it was a privilege to walk in the wasteland with these amazing people of faith.

But I must admit that I look at these godly people who daily give their lives to others and wonder why God has taken everything from them.  Then I start to compare wastelands.  Why is their wasteland so much worse than mine?  What if God takes everything from me someday?  Why have they been in the wilderness for over two years?  What if mine lasts for two years and gets even worse?  Will I still praise Him?  Will I still love Him?

I have to ask: Who is in charge of the wasteland?  Many times I try to be the one in charge.  The Orphan in me who lives without the love of a heavenly Father tries to deny reality and minimize her pain.  It’s not that bad.  She tells herself she shouldn’t be complaining so much.  She shames herself into being thankful because it’s not as bad as what some people have to go through.  She looks for other things and addictions to distract her and give her moments of joy: shopping, television, friends.  Often she thinks that she has brought on her wasteland.  She has a lack of faith.  She tells herself, “I did something wrong,  I didn’t do something right.  You see, it’s all my fault that I’m in this position.”

The Orphan also begins to believe certain things about God in the wilderness.  She thinks that God brought her here and left her all alone.  That he has forgotten that she’s here, or even worse, that he doesn’t care about her suffering.  She believes he is punishing her.  That he’s making her suffer for all the things she has done against him.  She is afraid to admit that she is angry with God.  She knows he could have prevented this, but for some reason he didn’t love her enough to keep it from happening.

The Ice Queen in me wants to be in charge too.  She looks for ways to shorten the wilderness.  She looks for the quick exit and makes a plan to reach it as fast as she can.  She spends time analyzing exactly what took her into the wilderness.  She carefully retraces her steps, her thoughts, her actions so that she can go back and take the right path to avoid being stuck in this wasteland.  If she can fix the fault, then she can find the exit.  She also blames others for her wilderness so that she can be right.  If they hadn’t said and done those things, she wouldn’t be stuck here.  It’s all their fault; she is just an innocent victim.

The Ice Queen begins to believe that God made a mistake when he brought her to this wilderness.  Maybe he fell asleep or maybe he made a poor decision.  Maybe her wilderness is really about teaching someone else a lesson they need to learn.  She becomes the martyr, sacrificing for the well-being of others.  If she is here by accident, then God must need her help to find a way out.  She makes a plan and starts walking.  She becomes angry with God because he wasn’t powerful enough to keep this from happening.  She ultimately blames him for her wilderness.

But I want to walk through the wilderness like a Princess.  The only step she takes is the step he shows her.  The Princess knows that she is not the one in charge of the wasteland.  Instead of fighting it or avoiding it, she presses into it even more.  She feels the pain, and she mourns what has been lost.  Yet in the pain, she trusts in the everlasting, steadfast love of the Father.  She knows that even though he may feel distant, he is there in the wilderness.  All she has to do is turn toward him and she will be able to make the journey.  In this wasteland, she rests and waits and worships him.

The Princess believes that God is in charge of the wasteland.  She trusts that he has not forgotten her.  He has not lead her her to punish her, but to discipline and train her.  This wasteland is not without purpose.  He is the One who made it.  He is the One who brought her into it.  He is the One who knows when and how it will end.  He has not brought her here to delight in her pain.  He has brought her here to transform her, to make her more like the Prince.  He has taken everything away so that he could have her all to himself.  He wants her to know him more and to trust him more.  All she has in the wilderness is Him, the manna, the bread of life.

“He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste,

because of the wickedness of those who lived there.

He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;

there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle.” Psalm 107:33-36

“Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindess of the Lord.” Psalm 107:43

My dear Princesses, may we remember that the wilderness is a sign of the lovingkindness of the Lord as much as the Promised Land.  May we rejoice in the steadfast love of God in the wasteland as well as the fruitful land.  May we never forget that He is in charge of the wasteland!


5 comments on “Lessons from the wasteland: Who’s in charge?

  • Oh Joy, I am sitting here with tears flowing down my face. I feel as though I have been in an everlasting wasteland with no end in site. I sit still while my friends and peers move on through life without me. I have no family of my own, family relations are strained at best and I find myself unemployed for a third time in the last 14 years. What is God doing? What lesson have I not learned that he keeps leading me to and through this valley? Why can’t I just get 1 win? Why have a I done all I should do, not straying from His commandments and not rebelling only to feel denied of any purpose, passion or things like a huband, children and/or a good paying job that uses my unique giftings and contributes to society?

    I am able to tell God how angry I am and ask over and over what He has for me, but I experience only silence.

    Thanks for reminding me that God is in the wilderness. I so needed to hear that! Love you Mama!

  • Joy, always appreciate your words. Thanks for writing. For me in my life right now, I am seeing that he allows for seasons of wandering through the wasteland to abolish my idol worship so that He becomes the only well from which I seek to have my thirst quenched. Lately, it has been so clear how many idols share in my worship. I fear the wasteland but am seeing that sometimes it takes the wasteland to make me more fully surrendered to my Father.

    Your blog came at a really good moment for to read. Miss you! Give my love to everyone!

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