One of my favorite scriptures comes from the prophecies of Isaiah. In Isaiah 43, the Lord says, “‘For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.'” There are many references to the wilderness or the desert in the Bible. For example, when God first calls Abram, he is in the wilderness. When God calls Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, they wind up in the wilderness. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. As Christians, we are a people of the wilderness. We live our lives as outsiders of our culture because, hopefully, we live lives that are countercultural. We experience trials in our lives, sometimes because of the fact that we are followers of Jesus. These experiences all cause us to be people of the wilderness.
When I think of the wilderness, I think of dry ground. I think of a barren wasteland. I think of death and decay. And there are times in my life that have felt barren. There have been times when I felt that death and decay were right around the corner. But I have also come to understand that God is working in the wilderness. God is calling me to trust in Him in those barren, dry, decaying times in my life. It is the wilderness times in my life when I have come to rely on Him more because I know that He is the only way that I will experience life.
In Isaiah 43, the Lord gives a promise to the Israelites who are experiencing punishment for their lack of faith. For generations, the people of God had disobeyed God’s clear commandments. They had worshiped other gods, they had intermarried with people who were not Jewish, they had sacrificed their faith for comfort and prosperity. And just as God promised, they were punished for their lack of commitment. Isaiah prophecies to the people of God in the midst of their exile, the time period in which they had been scattered for their disobedience. And after several prophecies that are very bleak and depressing, Isaiah prophecies hope for the people of God. God promises new life, He promises rivers in the dry land, He promises good things for His people.
It is easy for us to get discouraged when we are in the wilderness. It is easy for us to look around and see a barren wasteland. It is easy for us to think that death and decay are right around the corner. It is another thing altogether to look for God’s promises in the midst of the wilderness. As we see from His Word, God always promises good for his faithful people. He promises life. He promises hope. He promises love. He promises joy.
Trust God in the wilderness. Remember that He is always doing something new. Remember that He is a God of creation.
Choose joy as you start this new year, reflecting on the fact that God is creating new things out of the barren wasteland of your life.