It was in the desert that the Creator knelt to plant a lush and fertile garden. It was in the wilderness that the Good Shepherd left behind a flock to find the one who was lost. And it was that same Shepherd who safely led his flock to green pastures and quiet waters.
He will meet you there, too, friend. He will form you and make you and eventually (and maybe not soon), lead you back home.
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In the winter, wilderness comes up boldly and settles right at my door. Winds howl with devastating desolation, layers of ice turn the earth into a wasteland. All is dead as far as the eye can see, and should I be stranded without shelter for more than a handful of minutes, my life, too, would succumb to this force of nature, this reality of wilderness. I may live in fertile lands, but I grapple with the waste of wilderness for dark and dreary months each and every year.
When I was young and life felt especially bleak and my heart especially heavy, my dad would sing a little chorus to me: My Lord knows the way through the wilderness; all I have to do is follow . . . My Lord knows the way through the wilderness; all I have to do is follow.[i]
I can hear my father’s voice, still, when I near the dark night of the soul. The truth of these words coax me toward green pastures. Somehow, my Lord has always found me: Our gentle Shepherd—leaving behind the flock to come and notice me stuck in a ravine, lost in the desert—carrying me back home to green pastures and still waters.
Because he has found me so often in the wilderness, this—more than anything else—is why I am certain he is here at all.
Friend, have you felt the despair of desolation, of a weariness that seems endless? Rather than pushing this reality aside, sit here for a moment. God is here. He is not scolding you for being lost. He sits with you. However it may feel, he is already here. He will lead you through the wilderness.
Sit or walk quietly, and pour out your true, honest feelings to the Lord. Don’t try to hold the wolves at bay; simply be honest about this moment. Don’t rush past this step. Meet with the Creator in this place.
Ask for his strength to sustain you, however long this journey may be. Develop a practice of placing his name on your lips each morning, noon, and night (maybe even set a reminder on your phone).
Look for the people or resources he has already given you. Have friends or family been down this road? Are there lessons you learned years ago which give you hope to hold on to now? Contact these people, and lean on them. Write up the stories, or tell them to yourself.
When you can, look for the signs of life that grow even in despair. Is the sun shining today? Is there a patch of color in a barren landscape? Hold tightly to these things, meditate on them, and remember that he is always, always making things new.
You’ve been reading with Catherine McNeil from All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in this Messy, Abundant World. Get a copy or read a free excerpt of chapter one here. Head over to allshallbewellbook.com to get to know Catherine and her writing on faith, motherhood, and many other beautifully messy topics.
[i] “My Lord Knows the Way Through the Wilderness,” composed by Sidney Cox. This song was among the repertoire of the Billy Graham International Crusade Choirs: https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-billy-graham-international-crusade-choirs-the-definitive-collection-60th-anniversary-tribute-mw0002183684.