Deuteronomy 8:2-3 And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live (KJV).
The wilderness is the divine proving ground in which the children of God are tested. It introduces them to the need of their Savior to interact with them. It is the place that believers discover their own frailty. The wilderness exposes anything hidden in the heart that is contrary to God’s nature, which in turn eradicates self-deception. It is deadly ground to the old man. This type of exposure eliminates hypocrisy. Show me a hypocrite and I will show you someone who has never gone through the wilderness. This is also where a person learns the difference between conviction of the Holy Spirit and the unholy counterfeit, shame.
James 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (KJV). While the wilderness does expose our weaknesses, God does not use it to shame us. Rather, He uses it to teach us to ask for wisdom. The Father does not employ methods that push His children away. Shame disenfranchises people, while conviction leads to repentance and reconciliation. God humbled the children of Israel in their wilderness experience, however, ours teaches us to humble ourselves so He does not have to humble us. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (KJV). Jesus humbled Himself long before going into the wilderness (see Philippians 2:5-8; Matthew 4:1-11). Likewise, we must learn to submit in such a fashion, so God may do His perfect work in us.
When the devil tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus used the Word of God against him. Jesus already knew the reliability of God’s Word before going in. Of course, Jesus did not fall prey to the enemy because there was no evil in Him by which He could be tempted. For us, we learn the reliability of the Word while there. Even though we believe Scripture to be true before going to that solitary place, it becomes His Word to us as we transition through. A hypocrite is an actor who reads or recites his lines without any real depth. One purpose of the wilderness is making the Word become the Abundance of our heart, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34, KJV). It becomes so rooted in us; we do not have to pretend anymore, we truly believe it.
Another wonderful thing about the wilderness is we discover how precious we really are to the Father. Even though we may find unpleasant things about ourselves, we do discover that we truly love God. Before entering in, we tend to question whether we truly love Him. We wonder about our motives, and whether we truly believe. It is here the Lord shows us that we really do love Him. He uses it to purify our motives and bring us into true faith.
While in the thick of it, we may not recognize all that God is doing; however, when we get to the other side, He clarifies much of what we experienced. That does not mean we know everything He did with us, but the Father will reveal what we need to know in the course of time. Some things we learn almost immediately, while other things require time to be unpacked. Just know the package is precious. While at times the experience itself may frankly be unpleasant in our sojourning, the benefits outweigh the discomfort. In fact, those trained in their wilderness experiences are grateful for them.
Thanksgiving is crucial for a successful experience. While going through it, it is a time to rejoice in the Lord. Murmuring and complaining is a destructive force that must be vacated (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Philippians 2:12-15; Hebrews 3-4). The quicker we submit to God in the wilderness, the quicker He is able to bring us through it. Please understand, the wilderness is not a “one and done” process. God will continue to work in us all the days of our lives (see Philippians 1:6).