The Israelites, we read, wandered the wilderness for 40 years. With the benefit of scriptural hindsight, we can see the working hand of God on their situation, and the explicit lessons that the Lord wanted the Israelites to learn (Deuteronomy 8:2-3), namely that of humility and dependence on the providence of God. But in lockdown, as with other situations of life, we struggle sometimes to evaluate our current circumstances with the same perspective – even though God is still very much in control, working and speaking in our lives. This blog explores 3 lessons to which God is opening our eyes during these trying times
1. Walking Instead of Running
Lockdown has been an occasion where, for many of us, life has been stripped back from a frenzy of activities, demands and deadlines – to a quieter existence, with little to do and more time on our hands. For many of us, although tough, there has come the realisation that there are some things that can only be truly enjoyed and appreciated when life is slowed down. As Richard Reid, a psychologist and founder of Pinnacle Therapy says:
“When we slow down, we are more likely to gain value from the smaller things in our everyday existence, as well as to tune into our sensory experience of the world”
There is, it seems, a collateral to the fast-pace life that we haven’t necessarily considered before Covide-19: a devaluing of the smaller, everyday things of life. It seems that quantity comes at the cost of quality.
But more than this, is the sense that the journeying of life is being missed – the well known Alpha Course question “is there more to life than this?”, is asked by the non-believer and the busy Christian alike. Words like ‘contemplation’ and ‘meditation’ are the characteristics of the early church fathers and the arena of the mystics, not for the modern day – but it’s inescapable that the Bible highly values and recommends the quieter life, the epitome being Psalm 23:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
God, through lockdown, seems to be doing a stilling work in parts of Christendom – a life preoccupied with God rather than the schedule, a Mary rather than a Martha, where God is calling us back to the “one thing”, a restful and quiet trust in Jesus.
2. Mining for Gold
In many ways, lockdown has been a trying and testing time – but not always in ways that we may have expected. We expected loneliness but we didn’t expect a greater awareness of the need for God’s companionship. We expected greater amounts of time on our hands, but not the realisation that we relied on being busy to distract us from the hidden discontentments of life. In many ways lockdown has been a revealing time for many.
The Bible calls these times ‘trials’ – it is both an acknowledgment that these times are hard, but also, encouragingly, that these times are for our good, to build faith and character. Smith Wigglesworth (author of “Ever Increasing Faith”) had this to say on the topic:
“Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” ― Smith Wigglesworth
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.”
Paradoxically, the Bible calls us to “Count it all joy” – for we are to expect the deeper working of God on our hearts and in our characters during these difficult times. God is refining gold in our lives, working on the hidden things that only difficult times can bring to the surface, that we may be people that walk in closer companionship with Him and with others.
3. Wilderness & Blessings
As alluded to earlier, it was God’s intention to teach Israel to depend and trust in Him through their experience of wandering in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). It was the recognition that these lessons needed to be learnt before they reached the promised land, to prepare them for the promised land. Looking at the biblical testimony of many people greatly used by God we see a similar pattern. Firstly, a wilderness experience, then a releasing into the blessing/ministry of God:
- Moses spent 40 years in voluntary exile in Midian, before the burning bush experience.
- David spent years of his life fleeing from Saul, before eventually becoming King.
- Joseph spent thirteen years in Egypt (prison and slave), before becoming overseer.
- Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, and 30 years in obscurity, before beginning His ministry.
For each of these heroes of the faith, and Jesus being also the author of our faith, the wilderness was before the blessing. In this current crisis, many of us find our confidence has been shaken. Things that we put our security in have been shown to be houses built on sand – unable to withstand the storm. Interestingly, this same working of God is seen in Hebrews 12:25-27, and its purpose was “so that what cannot be shaken may remain”.
In all things, we know that God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) – we can therefore know, with confidence, that after the shaking, they’ll be a strengthening. God never unnecessarily puts a wilderness in our lives, as a loving father we can trust Him, knowing the encouragement: this is also how he treated the saints of old that they may be blessed and a blessing.
God bless you.