Time in the Wilderness

We often speak of the wilderness as a place of rejection; being in the wilderness seems to speak of rejection, being lost or having no contribution to society. Thinking about it, I’m not sure that many of us would choose to head off into the wilderness. And yet, Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Paul and
John the Baptist all headed off into the wilderness more or less willingly! The
wilderness was a place of preparation and of encounter with God. It is as if there
is more time in the wilderness for minds to slow down enough for God to speak
with us, a quietness for God’s “voice of utter silence” to be heard above the
hubbub of daily life.
In our age and country, however, we avoid the wilderness. We are so used
to comfort and company that we would do anything to avoid the discomfort and
loneliness of the wilderness. We seem to have learned that “fullness of life”
involves happiness with life, that being a good church means amazing things
happening and growth in numbers: success. These are misleading lessons! The
wilderness is about the complete opposite of success, and we struggle with that.
The wilderness is not only a physical place. We find the wilderness in loneliness,
in struggling at work or the breakdown and loss of relations. And it is not only
individuals who experience wilderness and exile. I would suggest that western
Christianity is heading into a wilderness period with little assurance about our
future success or influence.
God showed Moses the way out of the wilderness, but it wasn’t going to be
quick. It would be slow but sure. Moving into the Promised Land would take time.
It will, I fear, be the same for the church in Western Europe. Faith is the
assurance of an outcome. Hope is a confidence in Him who walks through the
wilderness with us. It is hope that we will need in the coming years, for love lives
in the wilderness.
Caroline Ramsey