Wilderness Moments

Throughout the Bible, there are many stories of when the people of God find themselves in ‘wilderness moments’. These are times of uncertainty and transition, where everything seems murky, and where it’s not entirely clear how God is at work or what the end result is going to be.

And yet, as you trace the story though, it’s often in these transition moments that God does some of His deepest and most profound work in the lives of individuals, communities and entire nations. Think about, for example, the story of Ruth that we are currently exploring on Sunday Mornings. It was a deeply unsettling time for Ruth and Naomi, a time of tremendous hardship, but also a time where God moved so powerfully to bring about provision and restoration for them.

Many of us might feel like we’re in a wilderness moment right now. Emerging from a pandemic (sort of!), things have changed significantly both in our nation and in many of our lives. There’s uncertainty and confusion at the highest levels of our politics and economics and an inevitable period of transition in our home, work, church, social lives. So how are we supposed to live in these moments?

As I’ve pondered this, I’ve been drawn to this passage in Leviticus; itself set in the context of the Hebrews in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you.

You must not imitate their way of life. You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.”

- Leviticus 18:1–5

There were three things that particularly struck me as I considered this passage:

Character

Firstly, how we are to live and act in wilderness moments is rooted in God’s revelation of who He is: “I am the Lord your God”. Navigating these moments is rooted in our understanding of the ‘I AM’ — that God is who He is and will be who He has always been. His constancy and consistency of character is the foundation for living in uncertain and unsettling times, enabling us to pause and know God as our anchor when everything around us seems to be changing.

Ultimately, this finds its fullest expression in Jesus — the one whose wilderness moments led him all the way to the cross — and it’s by standing together with others, looking to him, and leaning into him that we allow God the ‘I AM’ to help reset our perspective on all we are living through.

Practice

Secondly, living in wilderness moments means life looks different to how it did in the past, and how it will in the future. “Do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you” — how we are to live in this season is to be distinct from where we’ve been and where we’re going. How that looks will be different for each of us in our particular circumstances, but recognising and embracing the unique nature of these moments helps us to lay down the expectations of the past without rushing ahead to both the challenges and opportunities of the future.

So how do we do that? One key aspect is in how we pursue a posture of thanksgiving by learning to lift our gaze off of the things we might be tempted to grumble about (as the Israelites did in the wilderness) and instead focussing on God’s provision and presence with us. This isn’t always easy to do! But building daily rhythms and routines that cultivate thanksgiving enables us to navigate wilderness moments with faith, centring us on God in the moment between the passing past and the coming future.

Invitation

Finally, there is an invitation to find life. In our modern, Western context, the idea we can find life in obedience jars with us — when the central idea in our culture is that true life, freedom and identity comes from complete independence from others, “obeying decrees and regulations” sounds like the route to captivity. And yet, it’s God’s daily invitation for us to come and find all that we need in Him which brings true life, freedom and identity. His is a “light yoke and an easy burden”; no more captivity than a stream of fresh, clear water is captivity to a thirsty traveller.

This, then, is how we continue though wilderness moments: leaning into, rather than away from, our reliance on God and our need for Him to lead us, shape us and provide for us, and coming to Him daily to receive again all He has for us.

Perhaps you’re feeling the weight of a wilderness moment today — who can you reach out to who could stand with you? Or perhaps there’s someone in our community that you know is going through one right now — how can you reach out to encourage them today?

As a community committed to walking alongside one another through life’s wilderness moments, let’s keep reminding ourselves of God’s good character, practicing thanksgiving, and hearing again His invitation to come and receive.

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Oasis Church Birmingham

Oasis Church Birmingham

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Oasis is a community of people from Birmingham and the surrounding area who believe that Jesus changes everything