It looks completely different for everyone. It could be moving to a new town or city where you don’t know anyone, it could be going through a break up from the person you thought was ‘the one’, it could be a starting university in a city where you’re far away from loved ones and haven’t quite seemed to settle in. One of the most common wilderness seasons that young people encounter is a period of unemployment, especially fresh after graduation. One of the main signs that you’re in this season is that you’re uncomfortable. You are in unfamiliar territory and God has stripped back most of the things/people/circumstances that you have been used to. Another major sign is loneliness – you may or may not have people around you but feel lonely a LOT. You feel like people cannot relate to or understand your circumstance and so you distance yourself from them OR you are physically separated from those whom you are closest to, so that you cannot even run to them for comfort or help even if you wanted to. If this is you, dear friend take heart, I can assure you that 1) I have been where you are and I feel your pain and 2) this season is NOT permanent. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that there is a season to everything, a time for every purpose under heaven. Just as winter gives way to spring, and spring to summer, your wilderness season WILL give way to the promised land. It is only a matter of time. As someone whose season has recently ended, I’ve had a LOT of time to reflect over the last 2 years and gather my thoughts on some of the important lessons I learnt. I really pray this post encourages you to keep going, to continue to trust God regardless of your circumstance and finally, to make the most of it. This season is more crucial and important than you realise right now. As tough and uncomfortable as it is, know that your faith is being put through the refiner’s fire and God intends for the finished product to be more valuable than gold.
- Humility: If my wilderness season failed to do anything else, it certainly humbled me. Growing up, I’ve lived a very sheltered and comfortable life. I’ve not really had to deal with a lot of hardship or difficulty and I am grateful to God for that, but this wilderness season showed me another side to life. A side that is very common to a lot of people. I’ve had days where my bank balance made me laugh and cry at the same time. I’ve had days when I couldn’t afford to leave my house because I didn’t have enough to top up my oyster card. Through these experiences, I am able to empathise with others going through difficult circumstances. Nobody plans or intends to struggle through life or not be able to take care of themselves. There was a level of naivety and ignorance that previously meant that I could not fully understand or empathise with such people but I believe that I am able to do so a lot more now because of my experience.
- Being resourceful: God really used this season to pull out a lot of talents and skills that I NEVER knew I had. It is amazing how resourceful human beings can be when we find ourselves in circumstances where we appear to have less than enough to meet our needs. There are quite a few different skills that I developed during this season. Something else that I learnt is that I was made for more. God did not create me or anyone else to do just one thing. Prior to this season, I had a tunnel vision of what I wanted to do with my life and I was sure that was the only way to get there. God opened my eyes to see that not only could I do that, but I can have an equal passion for a several other areas too. That I am academic and studious, but I am also creative and entrepreneurial, technical and spontaneous all at once. My advice to you, dear child of God in this wilderness season is to get involved! Use this opportunity to try out that thing you’ve secretly wondered about, start that blog or Youtube channel, take that free online course, start painting or sketching again, you have absolutely nothing to lose and you’ve no idea how God will use this new skill for His glory.
- Spiritual growth: By default, the main purpose of a wilderness season is spiritual growth. Just as God made a covenant with the Israelites and desired for them to fully depend on Him and serve Him. God’s intention in your wilderness season is to draw you closer to Him. That loneliness you often feel is God calling you to Himself. It’s funny how much faith we ‘think’ we have when things are going well and we have nothing to worry about. But the substance of your faith is truly revealed through tests and trials. Faith is not faith when you can SEE what you hope for. Faith is faith when everything around you seems to be crumbling and nothing is working out. In those seasons do you REALLY trust that God has not forgotten about you? Do you really believe that He is a good Father? This year, I have learnt that God’s goodness is not dependent on my personal circumstances. God is as good on your best day – those peak moments where it feels like God personally opened the windows of heaven and poured down a blessing directly on you – as on your worst day where you have lost all hope and are ready to give up. His goodness is constant. God desires for us to have joy in EVERY season, on EVERY day. A real mark of spiritual growth is the ability to rejoice, even in the most difficult circumstance. Instead of complaining or moaning to everyone who will listen about your situation, I know others around you seem to have progressed and are where you wanted to be. I know they don’t have two heads, I know it seems like you’re the ONLY one out of all your friends. I know. You are not a failure. Take a moment to thank God for where you are. He has you here for a purpose and you will not see or understand it until you take the time to be still before Him. Allow Him to swap your limited earthly perspective for His boundless eternal one.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: As humans, we like comfort, we like the familiar and we like to have a back up in case things don’t work out. The wilderness season is the COMPLETE opposite of any of that. It is uncomfortable, it is not what we are used to. We do not like to suffer but one thing I learnt is that discomfort is good. Discomfort strips us of the familiar, discomfort makes us question the things and beliefs we hold dear to us, discomfort shows us that our trust is not fully in God as we may have thought, it shows us those idols that have been lingering all this while and forces us to confront them, it yanks the rug of safety right from under our feet and leaves us naked and vulnerable. Discomfort holds a mirror up at us and shows us our true selves. There is no better way to know thy self than to be placed smack in the middle of uncertainty, difficulty or trying times. It has a way of revealing our truly sinful nature through a lens that we’ve never seen and it is beautiful. It is beautiful in the sense that it gives a greater appreciation for God and the magnitude of what Christ did for us on the cross. So stop running away or trying to avoid it, allow yourself to just soak it in and embrace the discomfort.
- God’s faithfulness: Just as the Israelites never went hungry throughout their time in the wilderness, I equally never hungered or lacked. Despite not having as much as I was accustomed to, not one day in that whole season did I lack anything I needed. God truly supplied all my need and provided daily bread. In the same way that God provided enough manna for each day, He provided exactly what I needed for each day, nothing more or less. As someone who constantly worried – especially about the future – this was initially VERY tough for me. I wanted the comfort of having provision for that thing that I required next week but God showed me that I need only concern myself with the present day. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Dear friend, God has not forgotten you. He sees you clearly and He has you right where He wants you. As crazy as it sounds, enjoy your wilderness season! It will come and go. As grateful as I am for being in the ‘promised land’ it has come with it’s own set of challenges and responsibilities, much of which I would not have been prepared for had I not embraced the wilderness season. You will not get that time back again and you probably will never have a wilderness season quite like this, so don’t waste it.
P.S To gain a greater understanding of this season, I’d HIGHLY recommend studying the book of Numbers. This details the experience of the Israelites during their own time in the wilderness.