The Wilderness Journey, Trust, Words of Endurance

Helping People Live Courageously

How long, Lord? Where are you, Lord? Have you forgotten me, Lord?

How often those of us who have spent lonely, desperate days in the wilderness of pain or loss have lifted these cries to God! King David did. Jan and I did. And so have many others. It doesn’t matter who we are, but time in the wilderness seems to demand more than we have to give. It leaves us feeling helpless and utterly alone. It leaves us wondering if even God has abandoned us.

Jan and I have learned that the wilderness is part of the landscape of faith, every bit as essential as the mountaintop. On the mountaintop we are overwhelmed by God’s presence. In the wilderness we are overwhelmed by his absence. Both places should bring us to our knees: the one, in utter awe; the other, in utter dependence.

One by one the wilderness took from us everything we had depended upon in place of God. It took away our physical health, our mental and emotional health, our church, our friends, and even took us away from each other. Everything we relied on for our source of strength was gone. We were forced to turn to God because there was nowhere else to turn. But at times in the wilderness he seemed to be distant, if not absent altogether.

But just when our mouths were parched and Jan and I felt we would die of thirst, he provided a well—Dr. McGowen. Just when we were completely disoriented, he provided a sign pointing the way—Dr. Townsend. Just when it looked as if every trace of him had vanished, he provided a flower—Sealy Yates. Just when it felt as if I were going to die from sunstroke, he provided shade—Atlee Hammaker.

Through them we learned that God was not absent in the wilderness. He was there. We saw him. In the caring eyes of a family doctor. In the sympathetic voice of a psychologist. In the helping hands of a friend. In the comfortable presence of a fellow ballplayer.

As Jan and I reflect on our time in the wilderness, we learned a lot. We learned to walk by faith rather than by sight. We learned to trust God, even though at times every visible trace of him had vanished. And we finally came to the point that the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, did when he prayed: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful to God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and he enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Jan and I can’t say we had the feet of a deer as we went through the wilderness. Ours were a lot more clumsy than that. But I can honestly say we had the will to walk. In our heart of hearts we wanted to please God, to trust him, to love him, to obey him.

And I truly believe he was pleased.
Even with our stumbles.
Our prayer is that the words and images in this issue will bring refreshment to you in your wilderness journey.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13 (NIV), a psalm of David

From When You Can’t Come Back by
Dave & Jan Dravecky.