“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
I don’t know a single person who enjoys the wilderness. If any of my friends actually harbor great affection for wilderness places, not one of them has confessed yet! The wilderness is usually a place where we lose our bearings, a place where everything looks the same and we feel as if our customary reference points have disappeared. The wilderness might be a lush place rather than a desert; it may be replete with so much vegetation that the sky is obscured by a jungle canopy. On the other hand, it may well be a place that is dry and barren. The point is that the wilderness is a place of isolation and solitude, a place where we lose our bearings. Familiar routines and familiar coping mechanisms are no longer accessible. We find ourselves in a place we don’t recognize at all, a place where nothing from the past seems to make any sense and our vision for the future has evaporated.
Sometimes God has to lead us into the wilderness for the express purpose of compelling us to relinquish those very routines and coping mechanisms that make us feel comfortable. He wants to test us, to humble us, to expose what is in our hearts. He wants us to recognize that it is impossible to truly live in the strength of our usual schedules and familiar comforts. He wants us to know that “man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (see Deuteronomy 8:2-3). In my own experience, my gut-level priorities tend to surface quickly when I find myself in a trackless wasteland and have no clue where I am headed. When I lose vision and bury my hope, I become aimless and full of despair. Eventually, I do cry out to the Lord and ask Him to deliver me. (“Wow!,” He probably thinks to Himself. “It’s about time!”)
Is it possible that God leads us into the wilderness because He actually WANTS us to “forget the former things” — the things that make us comfortable, safe, and self-satisfied — the things that we tend to rely on to give us direction and confirmation for the correctness of our choices? What better way to cause us to forget the former things than to put us in the middle of a place where we are utterly lost, and our usual navigation tools fail to function? In fact, perhaps the Lord is helping us along by placing us in the wilderness; we might find it difficult to relinquish and forget the former things, were we not compelled to do so!
God promises to make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The good part about finding the road He provides for us in the wilderness is that we will be able to readily recognize it. When there are no other options, we are more likely to see the one path we are to follow. There are fewer risks of making the wrong choice if there is only one road! Rivers in the desert represent His provision for us while we are in the desolate places. God will not leave us without sustenance. He promises us His life, His presence, His refreshing water.
Father, thank you for your goodness to me! Thank you for helping me to abandon my own survival mechanisms by placing me in a wilderness where none of my humanly devised coping skills will work for me. Thank you for removing every vestige of the comforts and safety nets on which I tend to rely. Thank you for leaving me with nothing to grab onto but Yourself! Thank you for insisting that I forget the former things and leave them behind. Thank you for the roadway in the wilderness that I may not yet be able to see. I know that You will bring it into my range of vision at the proper time, and there will be no mistake which road to take. Thank you, in the meantime, for your living water of life which overflows in abundance to and through me!