Day 34 – Our Wilderness Story
As we near the end of this journey, let’s revisit the concept of story. As we are able to see our story in the context of God’s love, it brings healing and hope without denying the hard parts of the wilderness. When we can see our lives as part of an unfolding story, we experience joy. The joy that is discovered in the midst of pain has richness and depth as opposed to momentary or shallow joy.
Grumbling is a response to being enmeshed in the details of the story. However, our grumbling begins to fade as we take a step back and get some distance. Getting distance from the details allows us to see them in the context of the story that God is telling. When we do not see things in their context, we can misinterpret and become overwhelmed. The story that God is telling is a story of love. Love is who He is (1 John 4:8) and as Julian of Norwich said, “love is our Lord’s meaning.”
In Deuteronomy 6, we find the beautiful invitation that God relayed to His people through Moses: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and with all your soul and with all your strength.” We are likely familiar with the invitation to love but may skip over the statement that the Lord is one. While this statement supports the idea of monotheism, the point becomes clear as we look at the word that is used for one. It is the same word used in Genesis 2 to describe man and woman becoming one. One describes the loving, committed union of the marriage covenant. With God, it is suggesting that core to God’s essence is loving union. First, we now know with the fullness of revelation that God exists in a perfect union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Second, He invites us into that loving union. 2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” Our response of loving God comes as we respond to the love God has shown us. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) As we receive His loyal, faithful love, we are led to love Him and move toward deepening union and oneness with Him.
Receiving His love is rooted in seeing it. He is always loving us, but it can remain an abstract concept that is not experienced if we are not seeing it in the context of our lives. The praise and joy in the prayers of the Psalms are always rooted in recognizing specific acts of God’s love. Psalm 136 begins with the words: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Then, as the story of the people of Israel is told, the phrase “His steadfast love endures forever” is connected to particular details and is repeated twenty-five more times in twenty-five verses. Today, stop for a few minutes and prayerfully read through Psalm 136.
Psalm 107 walks through various descriptions of where the people of God found themselves. Some wandered in desert wastes, find no city to dwell in. (v. 4) Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons. (v. 10) Some were fools through their sinful ways and because of their iniquities suffered affliction. (v. 17) Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters … He commanded and raised the stormy wind … their courage melted away in their evil plight. (v. 23, 25, 26) Sometimes we find ourselves in tough places through no fault of our own and sometimes we find ourselves in tough places because of the consequence of our sin. For whatever reason we end up in the wilderness, God’s heart is that we would see our desperate need for Him … that we would cry out to Him. It is not as simple as “do good” and things will go well, or “do bad” and things won’t. In each situation, the people cried out to God and He was right there … listening and loving them.
In the final verse of the Psalm, we read: “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (v. 43) Pause for moment and consider the love of God … the way He is meeting you or has met you in your wilderness season. How has He loved you?
Anthony DeMello describes the joy of considering God’s love: “behold the One beholding you and smiling.” As we perceive and receive His love, we move from discontentment toward joy because we are moving from isolated details to seeing all things in the context of His story of love. Our wilderness story becomes a love story that we wouldn’t trade for the world.
Question for reflection: select a time period in your life. Take a few steps back from the details and ask God to help you see how He has loved you during that time. What do you notice in your spirit as you see His love frame the details?
Prayer: Lord, I want to see You in the circumstances of my story. Give me eyes to see and discernment to know Your love. As I perceive and receive it, may I respond by loving You with the same kind of commitment and desire with which You pursue me. Amen.