A wilderness experience can be described as a period of time when a Christian experiences testing, trials, spiritual warfare or persecution. It is a period where one may experience different kinds of problems at various levels of one’s life from health & financial issues to social & spiritual issues.
During a wilderness experience a Christian may also experience confusion or doubt about one’s purpose and direction in life. Sometimes a Christian may even question God due to the confusion, doubt and painful trials and experiences that one may be facing.
For the Christian, a wilderness experience can either be positive or negative because it all depends on how the Christian responds to his/her particular situation.
Therefore a believer may either backslide or experience a setback in one’s spiritual growth or maturity.
Alternatively a wilderness experience is an opportunity which God uses to build our character and to help us to mature and grow in our Christian life and relationship with Him.
Romans 5:3-5 says: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:2-4 says: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Therefore a wilderness experience is common in the life of all Christians and is necessary for molding us into the person that God wants us to be and to equip us to endure and have victory over future battles in life.
A few examples of people in Scripture who had wilderness experiences are Moses (Exodus 2:11-22 & Exodus 3:1-12), Job, Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-9), John the Baptist (Matthew 11:2-3), and Paul (Galatians 1:17-18).
The nation of Israel also had a wilderness experience after God rescued them from slavery in Egypt.
Jesus Christ Himself was also tested in the wilderness where He consistently used the Scriptures to overcome the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:1-11).
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND DURING A WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE?
1. Learn to trust in the Lord with all your heart. Learn to totally depend on Him in your daily living and to trust in His perfect character and steadfast love towards you (Psalm 33:22-24).
2. Do not stop praying. Do not give up praying to God. Instead learn to pray without ceasing despite your situation (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1).
3. Do not give up studying and meditating on God’s word. When Christ was tempted as He fasted, Jesus consistently used the Scriptures to defeat the tests of the devil. The word of God is therefore a weapon during a period of spiritual warfare and it is important that we meditate on God’s word and live obediently according to His scriptures (Ephesians 5:17; Hebrews 4:12).
4. Be thankful in all circumstances. We must have an attitude of gratitude not only when things are good – but also when we are experiencing a wilderness experience. A thankful heart allows us to focus on the goodness of God (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
5. Remember that God is always in control and that He uses every experience in our life for your benefit and for His glory (Romans 8:28).
Ultimately a wilderness experience cannot be avoided. Therefore the most important thing during such a period is how we choose to respond during this particular time.
We must be reminded and be encouraged that in all circumstances in life, the Lord is with us and He will never leave us nor forsake us.