grace in the wilderness

The sun rose purple this morning, though I was certainly awake before it made its appearance. One of the most difficult parts of winter for me is the sleepiness of the sun – its delay in rising and its early departure in the evenings. Even during the day, it seems to burrow itself under blankets of clouds, as if it, too, is waiting for winter to end.

I’ve been asking the Lord what he wants from me, how he wants to use me in this season of life. Two years ago, I thought my season was about to change, so I tried to soak up everything I could to make the most of where I was, even if was only for a few more months.

I can’t believe it’s been two years. I can’t believe every single other thing in my life has changed – yet the one thing I thought would change, hasn’t. In the past two years – well, really, the past six months – my job, my husband’s job, our city, our friends, our church, our house all became new. But the wilderness of infertility in our life has remained the same. Despite recent tests, even our findings have not changed; everything is normal.

I know that I am always grateful for trials in hindsight. It’s encouraging to see the growth the Lord worked in me and how he uses those struggles for his purposes. I have experienced the truth of Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4, and I am not doubting that suffering produces perseverance and maturity and character.

But in the middle of the desert, we all despair; none of us would choose to camp there for too long.

We tend to think that the wilderness would be easier to walk through if we had a timeline on it. If I just knew how much longer it would be before we got pregnant, or if you knew that you would not have to endure your miserable job in another six months, or if singleness had a cap – maybe then, you could be content with your present, knowing that it won’t last for forever.

However, God told the Israelites exactly how long they would be wandering in the desert, and that didn’t cheer them up or prevent them from doubting God. They still complained. They were still afraid.

So if knowing the length of time of our wandering is not the answer, what does it look like to endure the wilderness? How can we find purpose in each season of life, whether or not it’s been made clear to us? How do we trust God’s goodness when it seems removed from our line of vision?

In the middle of pain and confusion, the only thing I know to do is to continue going back to the Word, looking for answers, for encouragement, for anything that provides clarity of God’s character while I walk in the wilderness.

And I can’t get this verse out of my mind:

Thus says the Lord, “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:2-3

“Grace in the wilderness” is one of the most beautiful phrases to me.

It often seems like the wilderness is a time when God is distant, when for one reason or another I am confused by how I ended up here and why God isn’t more present to bring change.

Jeremiah was prophesying about the coming defeat and exile that Judah would face. Because they worshipped pagan gods and failed to keep God’s covenant, the Babylonians would soon conquer Jerusalem and take captives away. However, because of God’s love for his people, Jeremiah also promised that Jerusalem, along with His people, would be restored in time. And, in the middle of it, Jeremiah promises that God will be with them.

God will remain faithful to his people. The wilderness may seem like a backwards move away from God’s goodness and God’s care, but that’s because they don’t understand God’s ways and God’s glory. His plan reaches far past the seventy years of captivity. God’s faithfulness continues in the wilderness. I believe that, and I am grateful he does not leave us to wander on our own. I believe that he is present, even when I don’t “feel” him.

But what it’s not just about seeing his grace while I am in the wilderness – what if the wilderness is actually part of his faithfulness? What if he is showing me grace by allowing me to remain in the wilderness?

What needs to change in my perspective to see infertility not just as a struggle to get through, but as a provision from God? How would this affect my joy, my hopes, my day-to-day life?

How does it shake your desperation to consider this desert as a place of experiencing God’s favor?

We will unfortunately not fully understand God’s ways on this side of heaven. It won’t make sense to us why life turns out the ways it does and why some desires go unfulfilled. But God is ultimately the One who wants to be the fulfillment of those desires, and as we wrestle in the wilderness, may we see that God’s grace goes before us and with us. He is faithful.

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25

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