When You Find Yourself in the Wilderness | Christina Painter

Have you ever been lost? Maybe you didn’t realize you were lost until you were alerted by that dreaded voice coming from the GPS, “recalculating, proceed to route.” I’m not great with directions (just ask my husband) and I’ve heard that voice more than once. Frantically, I look for a place to do a U-turn, but more often than not I have to travel farther from my destination in order to get there. Thankfully, the GPS will reroute despite my unplanned detour to get me where I need to be. I can become so focused on arriving at the destination, wanting to bypass the travel required to get there, that I fail to realize all that I am missing along the way.

There is beauty in the journey

However, God has been working in my heart lately, reminding me that He meets me along the journey…and not just when I arrive at the destination. Some months, and even some years, will bear a striking resemblance to the long detour through the wilderness that the Israelites had to travel to the promised land. They wandered through the wilderness and worried about their future. It was a long and arduous journey, one that surely felt dark, scary, and never ending at times. It’s amazing to me to consider the difficulty of their 40 year journey even though the Almighty was leading them by a cloud during the day and by fire at night.

Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:22 NIV

He was always before them, and He is always before us.

Just like the Israelites, sometimes our journey to a destination can be long, arduous, and scary. It’s so easy to want to bypass all of those difficult parts of the journey to get where we want to go. But sometimes, where we desire to go is not at all the destination at which God intends for us to arrive.

The Israelites had no idea how the Lord would bless them on their journey. They were so unaware that on several occasions, out of fear and pride, they demanded to be taken back to Egypt…where they were slaves! They wanted to do a U-turn, but God knew what was best for them and He knew He needed to take them the long way. They needed to see and experience the miracles He would do throughout the journey; the parting of the Red Sea, the manna and quail from Heaven, and the water from the rock. They needed to learn to trust in God’s power and provision, and God chose the journey itself to reveal His nature to them. He used miracles in the wilderness to protect and provide for His people.

there is purpose in the wandering

I’ve found myself wandering in the wilderness more than once in my life. One particular season that stands out to me is early on in my marriage. My husband wasn’t saved when we were married and I spent a lot of time trying to change him myself. I wasted time wandering around in circles during those futile attempts. I was so focused on the destination (my husband’s salvation) that I didn’t care what the journey looked like. I simply wanted the fastest route. God gently showed me that I was not going to be my husband’s Savior. So I continued to pray that He would lead my husband to salvation.

It’s a hard place to be when your spouse doesn’t share the same hope that you have. But even in the midst of that wilderness, God knew where we were headed. He was with us in that desolate place when we felt very lost — and just like with the Israelites, God began the work of leading my husband through the wilderness to our loving Savior. Through the avenues of prayer, godly friendships, and an amazing church, my husband accepted Christ and was baptized. He’s grown tremendously in his faith and has become the spiritual leader of our household. God didn’t just transform my husband’s heart on that journey, He transformed mine as well. My faith in Him deepened as we navigated those winding paths. If I had continued attempting to navigate the situation on my own, we would still be wandering in the wilderness.

I believe that God sometimes leads us through the wilderness in order to show us His power, to strengthen our faith, and to transform us into people who can genuinely appreciate the destination when we arrive.

there is hope in the destination

Our lives are constantly changing, and our destinations will change along the way as well. I don’t want to miss the blessings found in the journey due to a hurried heart – – anxious to arrive at the destination. I want to spend each day acknowledging the blessings and the miracles that God is providing along the way. I know that it is easier said than done, but perhaps through intentional prayer we can change our mindsets and our hearts.

Maybe, like me, you want to do the leading because God doesn’t seem to be moving fast enough or maybe the destination is unclear. Regardless of my circumstances, I want to turn my face to Heaven and catch the manna and find joy along the way. I want to trust in the God of the Israelites and know that as long as I am seeking His will, I am on a path to a beautiful destination. We will have many roads to travel here on earth, but this life is a journey… and as believers we can trust that we are being lead to the most beautiful destination – a heavenly reunion with our Lord and Savior.

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. Exodus 15:13 (NIV)

May the Lord be our guide and may we not forsake the journey for the destination.

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When You Find Yourself in the Wilderness


  1. Yes, there is a purpose in the wandering and God in the destination. His plans are meant for our good and while we may not understand them, if we lean on Him and let Him lead us, He’ll bring us through.
    Great post, thank you for showing us through Scripture, how God leads His people.

  2. Thank you Christina. This was such an encouragement to me today! And I love how you highlighted that God was always with them in the wilderness – you shed a different light on it for me.

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