Mavis Peters showed up at a weekend retreat where I was speaking last year. We soon realized may have met decades ago but we can’t remember it. However, we both know many of the same people. We embarked on a faraway friendship — the only kind I seem to be able to sustain!
Mavis let me know she was in a season of spiritual dryness. My own prolonged wilderness experience and subsequent reconnection with living faith has been an encouragement to her. And our ongoing dialogue has been a boost to me.
Mavis offers the following book review as a help to others who also struggle with spiritual dryness:
This 74 page booklet begins by quoting Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” Daniel Kolenda then comments, “Adversity does not have to become our destination. It can be a pathway to something greater.” (p5)
This positive, forward-facing attitude permeates “Surviving Your Wilderness”. Showing a striking parallel, Kolenda takes the six recommendations for surviving a physical wilderness and applies them with clarity, insight and succinct examples, to surviving a spiritual wilderness. The overall structure is simple and easy to follow; each chapter contains helpful tools.
Tip #1 – Don’t Panic:
Lies from the enemy bring fear. We need to hold on to our beliefs that God is real and He is good. Remembering who we are, as His children, we can resolve to keep our heart steadfast, and not give into the tendency to give up.
Tip #2 – Assess Your Situation:
Taking stock of your resources, and understanding your surroundings, are essential physically and spiritually. “The resources for spiritual life are always precious, but in the wilderness we must rediscover them and cling to them like never before.” (p 13) Our greatest resource is the Word of God; it can give new perspective. The fellowship of the saints is another, for “once isolated in a spiritual desert, we become especially vulnerable to discouragement and deception.” (p 17) The comfort of the Holy Spirit is discussed by Kolenda through the story of Joseph, who experiences our wildnerness from within us, present with us through it all.
Personally, the second half of this chapter was extremely helpful. Kolenda describes what kind of wilderness we are in, and describes two: 1) The Wilderness of Opposition comes to us as a result of sin. The mercy of Christ and His forgiveness are proclaimed clearly; the need for repentance as turning not just from sin but to Christ is powerful and well articulated! 2) The Wilderness of Promotion – We are each called to become “like Jesus”, and the wilderness can be the necessary training grounds, preparatory for the calling on our lives. “You can’t get such results quickly. You can’t get them cheaply….Before promotion there must be process; before resurrection there must be death.” (p32)
Tip #3 – Find Shelter
“…the way a child of God finds or builds a shelter is by seeking God all the more diligently as a haven..”(p38) “The wilderness is not the place of God’s absence. It is the place where He establishes His presence in a fresh way.” (p 39) We can experience Him in this way, but we must rouse ourselves to seek Him.
Tip #4 – Build a Fire
In Israel’s 40 year wilderness, they did not start their own fire – God did. Teaching them how to worship Him, He established sacrifice as the centre – fire, sacrifice. It is our job to maintain that fire, to “stoke the flames by worshipping Him during hard times.” (p47) God set the Israelites on fire before they reached the promised land – they emerged from the wilderness already ablaze. “God brings us into the wilderness to set us on fire. Then He can bring people into their destiny who have learned to worship – truly worship – Him with loyal, fervent hearts.” (p 47)
Tip #5 – Drink water
“Survival experts warn us not to wait till we feel thirsty, but to drink as much as possible. Likewise, it si critical that those in a spiritual wilderness constantly be filled with God’s Spirit.” (p 51) Praying in the Spirit is how we can keep ourselves hydrated. “We pray ini the Spirit when we connect with His presence, partner with His leading, and permit Him to empower our prayers.” (p 53) Note: some may not agree with Kolenda’s brief reference also to praying in tongues, but much is offered in this chapter re prayer.
Tip #6 – Find Nourishment
It will be no surprise to the reader, that the “nourishment” we find, as Christians, is the Word of God. Kolenda suggests two ways to live by the Word: feasting on it, and obeying it. The latter closes out this booklet with a powerful challenge to those in the wilderness, to “…continue to believe (God’s) promises even if they seem contradicted, for the moment.” (p 66).”The reason God took us down the route of hard places is to see if we would still believe His Word while there. That’s when it counts….Those who are proven to be people of ‘spirit’ may not enjoy everything about the wilderness, but they are willing to embrace it.” (p 69)
The underlying tone of encouragement is maintained throughout this very readable booklet. We have been provided with all the tools necessary for survival. Personally, I benefited most from the realization that God has a GOOD PLAN for me, coming out the other side of my wilderness; that my being there is actually PART of His good plan. To sense a purpose in this period of my life gives me strength to fight through it. “So take courage. Keep moving forward. The pain of the wilderness may be great, but greater still is its significance for your life. The Promised Land awaits you…” (p 7)