Life in the Wilderness
In thinking about the challenges in life, I am reminded of when Marshall Shelley, editor of Leadership Monthly, writes about a conversation with his father-in-law who gave his perspective on the difference between city living and a rural lifestyle on the farm.
"Most city folks I know expect each year to be better than the last," he said. "They think it's normal to get an annual raise, to earn more this year than you did last year. As a farmer, I have good years and bad years. It all depends on rain at the right time, dry days for harvest, and no damaging storms. Some years we have more; some years we have less."
Shelley goes on to talk about the "law of the harvest," where some seasons are plentiful while others are lean. This is a fact of life that does not apply merely to farming. There are various seasons of life, each with their blessings and challenges.
I would add that there is more to our challenges than alternating cycles of plenty and leanness. Consider this perspective on the challenges of living in the wilderness with all of its challenges:
"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, ... He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. ... Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son .. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end." (Dt 8:3-16).
The time in the wilderness was filled with various difficulties and challenges. Whether it was the challenge of food, water, sustenance, sickness, or enemies, it was never meaningless, random events in the lives of God's people. These difficulties and challenges were the Father's discipline for his children because he loves them.
The passage also reminds us that the difficulties of the challenges in the wilderness are temporary.
"For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. ... But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Dt 8:7-9, 18).
The time is coming when we will leave this wilderness and into the home our Lord promises us. In the meantime, he allows us to face the challenges we face for good. When we recognize this, it reduces the amount of discontentment in our lives and will keep us from becoming bitter and falling away.