You ask, what is the wilderness? Here are the characteristics of the wilderness. A wilderness experience usually follows a season of highs. For Jesus right after He was baptized (which was more accurately a coronation), He was taking His rightful place as the final and greatest king of Israel.
Read: What is strong with me?
As soon as the event was over Mark’s gospel says He was immediately thrown into a wilderness experience where Satan would tempt Him after 40 days of fasting. Wilderness experiences usually happen when you are at the end of your spiritual rope. It is a time of seeking God’s will and direction for your life.
In a previous post, we talked about the valley. When you are in the valley you get to know Him in a deeper way because you are forced to rest on Him. We enjoy Him on the mountaintops but get to truly know Him in the valleys. It is those wilderness times where we experience God. For a deeper dive into this, enter our subject, Elijah.
Elijah was a prophet of God in a dark time in Israel’s history. Their King Ahab had abandoned walking in the ways of Yahweh and turned to worship Baal. Elijah was sent to lead God’s people back. Elijah faced struggles and God delivered a stunning victory that would lead him to his wilderness wanderings.
- Elijah stood down evil King Ahab and prophesied drought due to the consequences of his sin.
- For 3 years, King Ahab searched with all his forces for Elijah.
- While Elijah was hiding, ravens fed him, and he raised the dead.
- On Mount Carmel, he stands down 850 false prophets—called down fire from heaven on a water-soaked altar, which is consumed.
- Destroyed false prophets—asked God for rain.
After defeating Ahab and Jezebel’s false prophets she vows he will be dead by this time tomorrow.
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,4while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:3-5
Elijah after this amazing victory performed by God now runs 100 miles to get away from the evil queen.
You may have a high tolerance for pain. At some point, you will reach your breaking point. When you get there one thing can push you over the edge. My mother loved to say, “You are jumping on my last nerve.” For Elijah, after all, going through that threat from Jezebel was the last straw. God sent him into his wilderness wanderings.
Your Mindset in the Wilderness
When you look at Elijah, he seems exhausted. Have you been there? Can you relate? You are more than just tired you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted. As you get to this point you just want to jump in a hole and pull the world in after you. The thing about the wilderness is that this season can last a long time. While the valley is hard, the wilderness wanderings can go on for a while.
How Do You Recover?
If you find yourself in the wilderness this Christmas don’t try and power through it. You need to power down and allow God to reboot you. You need physical rest and spiritual replenishment.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”8So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:5b-10
Once God got Elijah’s physical strength up, he sent him to Mount Horeb to connect with him.
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12After the earthquake came to a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-12
And the reason God whispered to Elijah is to remind him and us He is near. God is never far from us. Satan yells lies, God whispers truth. The world screams, God gently reminds us of His divine presence. This Christmas as the world yells the trappings of the holiday, go to Bethlehem to the quietness of the manger and hear the voice of God in the silence of that special night of the Savior’s birth.
Rev. B. Keith Haney is Assistant to the President for Missions, Human Care, and Stewardship of Iowa District West. He has been an ordained pastor for twenty-seven years and has served multi-ethnic urban congregations in Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. He is the author of numerous devotionals, including One Nation under God: Healing Racial Divides in America. He is married to Miriam (Bickel) Haney, and they have six children and two grandchildren.