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AfterWords | Surviving a Wilderness Season (November 13, 2022)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Lisa Goddard

In 2008, almost 30 years after my husband Andy took the helm of his father’s manufacturing company, grew it to more than 150 employees and founded three other companies, his partners staged what you might call a “coup” and ousted him. All income and benefits were cut off immediately. We were left bewildered and anxious, wondering how we would manage this new normal and what the future had to hold. We cried out to God over and over during that “wilderness season,” desperate for His promise of provision and restoration to be fulfilled.

The Israelites traveled for 40 years in the wilderness in search of the promised land. With only God to rely on, they had to learn to trust Him more than man as they struggled through doubt, hunger, isolation and danger. While we did not go hungry or lose our home, our family did walk through many moments of uncertainty and depression, wondering when God would show us a light at the end of the tunnel.

This past Sunday, Jordan took us through the Exodus story, noting that God hears our cries during these trying times and responds. We just don’t know how and when that response will manifest itself. God hears us, just as he heard the cries of the Israelites, who were being oppressed by Pharaoh. He chose Moses to lead the Israelites, but he did not take them on the shortest route to the promised land. The same applies to our lives when we experience those wilderness seasons. We want instant gratification, immediate transformation, a quick solution, but God has a purpose and plan, seeking our patience, cooperation and discernment to understand what He is up to in these situations.

In Hebrew, the word BaMidbar is translated as “in the wilderness, or “in the desert,” but the word itself comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to speak.” The wilderness is uncomfortable, a rough and unfamiliar time that God may be using to free us from sin and bondage so we can be transformed into the people God wants us to be. He is speaking to us, but we have to listen. Maybe He is using this dry season to humble us and ferret out the habits, idols and strongholds we’ve been clinging to that are hindering our faith.

For Andy and me, in that particular season where we felt so much was lost, we had no choice but to turn only to the one true God, not the “gods” of money, material possessions and prestige that we had also been serving. It took time for God’s voice to rise above the noise of our anxious thoughts and the world’s judgment, but slowly, just as God provided the Israelites enough manna for each day, our faith and trust strengthened, and we were ready to firmly take hold of the promise of God’s provision.

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7).

It was a slow process for me, as I am a creature of habit and used to being in my “comfort zone.” When financial security and my day-to-day normal was ripped away, and what Andy saw as his main purpose disappeared, I had to navigate many days of my own despondence and fear while trying to encourage my husband and stay strong for him. And, as the manna (translated “what is it?”) wasn’t always the provision the Israelites wanted or expected, what God supplied for us wasn’t always what we hoped for either. But, for the Israelites and us, it was enough.

As Jordan mentioned, God is there with us in those times of hardship, but we don’t often see it until we look back. That is certainly true for me. I can reflect back now to that time, and to other wilderness seasons, and realize what God was trying to show me and how He was using this time to teach me that future blessings were in store.

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13)

In the latter of Andy’s three decades of leading corporations, he had grown tired of the striving, selling and serving man and had begun pursuing certifications in life and career coaching, something he loved, but had never considered as a career. He did it because he felt God nudging him to consider something he was gifted at, but perhaps reluctant to try. Just a few months after letting go of his companies, Andy got a call from a large Christian organization dedicated to equipping business leaders with transitioning into their next season of life. They asked him to become their national director of coaching, and so we came out of the wilderness season and began a new season of God’s amazing, and unexpected, provision.

That new season was short, but fruitful, and opened the doors to many new opportunities, friendships and encounters that served to strengthen Andy’s and my trust and faith in God’s promise. I know that He is with me every step of the way in this journey called life, and while it’s not always easy to climb out of the valleys, I find it is not as daunting as it used to be.

Jordan reminded us that true journeys take time, saying “they’re not for tourists, but for pilgrims.” We don’t always know where God’s path will take us, but we need to trust him in the process. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.”

One of my favorite Christian contemporary songs recently is called Weary Traveler by Jordan St. Cyr. The words of the chorus resonate: “Weary traveler, restless soul. You were never meant to walk this road alone. It’ll all be worth it so just hold on. Weary traveler, you won’t be weary long.”

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