Wilderness Formation

Everyone who follows Christ is eventually called to follow him into the wilderness. The Scriptures are replete with examples of how God used wilderness to reveal himself and to spiritually form his people. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the Israelites, David, Elijah and Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul all spent time in the wilderness. So did the desert fathers and mothers. Eventually, God sends all who truly seek to know him into a spiritual wilderness. N.T. Wright notes:

From at least the time of the letter to the Hebrews, the wilderness has been used in Christian writing as an image for the dark side of the spiritual journey. Conversion, baptism, faith—a rich sense of the presence and love of God, of vocation and sonship; and then, the wilderness.

Spiritual wilderness: harsh, wild and uncontrollable. Barely inhabitable and yet breathtakingly beautiful. Inarguably dangerous and possibly deadly, but also transformational and even miraculous. Solitary and unfamiliar, but full of grace and spiritual activity.

The wilderness is a blessing disguised as a curse—a study in contrasts. While theophanies and divine epiphanies regularly occur in the wilderness, so do unimaginable fits of depression and despair. We hear many voices there, and sometimes have difficulty distinguishing among God’s, our own, the world’s and that of devils toying with us, meaning to eat us alive. Wilderness heightens our senses; paradoxically, we’re acutely aware of both God’s presence and his seeming absence. Truths once obscure, or mentally assented to yet not experienced, suddenly stand out in sharp relief while the superfluous recedes into the background. In the wilderness, miracles happen, temptations lure, judgment occurs.

~ Marlena Graves

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