Wilderness Of Words

By in Devotions

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

“O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble, why are you like a stranger to us?…You are right here among us, Lord.  We are known as your people.  Please don’t abandon us now!” Jeremiah 14:8, 9

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Insight

Merriam-Webster defines wilderness as “an area essentially undisturbed by human activity” or “an empty or pathless area.” This definition of wilderness sounds exactly like how I now feel:  I have a strong urge to sprint but no clear path in which to run.  

Day after day I sit down to read my Bible, then my mind and heart wanders to a thousand different places – any place but the page in front of me.  Words popping off the page, raising me to life, correcting me, most of all, guiding me, is gone.  I stare at the page and see nothing but words, jumbled together, formless.  I keep staring in hope that God will make His words light up again and in doing so will illuminate my dark places.  Another day passes.  I keep staring but I see or feel nothing.  Caught in a wilderness of words, I’m left undisturbed, empty.  

I hate it.  Maybe I wouldn’t mind so much if I had not once experienced the pure provocation and joy of these same words.  Once, they were a “lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” Once, they excited me.  Once, I couldn’t wait to turn open a page.  

I think now that I took this gift for granted but remembering this once-lived reality is why I keep trying, keep staring, keep reading.  I believed it once; I know I can believe it again.

Suddenly, I’m consumed with guilt for thinking such a thought.  Furthermore, writing it down seems like surrender to a reality I’d rather ignore.  I think about all of the shiny, happy Christians sitting by me in the chairs on Sundays.   The ones who never seem to have a simple problem much less a cross to bear.  I know that’s a lie but this doesn’t stop my mind from thinking it.  I feel alone and isolated in the struggle.  

I keep staring and these words finally touch a nerve:  “O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble, why are you like a stranger to us?”  

I deeply resonate.  Funny how a question written thousands of years ago can speak to me now.   These words, spoken to God by the people of Judah in response to a long drought:  “You are right here among us, Lord.  We are known as your people.  Please don’t abandon us now!”  

“Yes, God!  Hear them!  Hear me!”, I think as I keep reading.  But the story continues and I regret that it caught my attention.  Although Jeremiah begs God for grace and mercy on behalf of the people of Judah, God refuses.  This doesn’t seem like the very good gospel.  God even asks Jeremiah not to pray for them or intercede on their behalf.  Devastating.  I keep reading.

The people of Judah cry out for God’s attention and rescue, but they do so half-heartedly while refusing to obey Him.  The only thing that God would eventually accept was authentic repentance.  God needed them to admit the truth about where they were before He could transform them and lead them to where He wanted them to go.

My sorrow turns to relief.  I am reminded that God doesn’t want my fluffy-fake expressions of loyalty but He wants the truth about my heart.  He can handle the ugliness, the heartaches, the confusion.  He just needs my truth.  I think about the father in Mark crying out to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  I am grateful for his bravery.  I am grateful God made sure it was recorded for me to see.  This man didn’t need pat-Christian answers; He needed the power of God.

Reflection

  • As you read this today, maybe you can relate to the wilderness experience.  Take heart that you are not alone and reach out to God to help you.  In the end, our efforts are but sinking sand; God is the solid rock of power and faithfulness.  Confess your doubt and unbelief and wait expectantly for God to transform it.
  • Perhaps, you are reading this and you are filled to the brim with gratitude for God’s word.  Spend time thanking Him for this gift.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that You are stronger than our unbelief.  Thank you for being the anchor in our storms.  Help us to overcome the places of darkness and doubt.  We can’t do it without You.  Amen. 

PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.