When it comes to relationships, it is often easier to say how much we love the other party than to put that love into action. This is especially true when we face challenges or go through trials. It is during such difficult times that we come to really know what is in our hearts concerning that person. This is no different when it comes to our relationship with God. It is when we go through the wilderness phase that we can really answer the song writer’s question, “will your anchor hold in the storms of life?”.
There is a very clear difference between knowing God and knowing about God; the latter being a superficial interaction with Him. Everyone can know about God but only few can really know Him. Knowing Him requires a great investment and does not come solely by participating in all the religious activities in the Christian faith, or expertly quoting all the scriptures in the Bible. With such a relationship you can experience the blessings and protection of God and still not know God. Take for instance the Israelites who were the chosen nation and to whom God had revealed Himself in so many ways. Yet, the Bible says that “He made known His ways to Moses and His acts to the children of Israel” [ Psalm 103:7, NKJV]. Unlike Moses who got to know the real character of God because He had a deep relationship with God, the Israelites on the other hand got to know His acts because they choose to know God through Moses [Exodus 20:19]. This is what happens when we become solely dependent on our religious leaders for our relationship with God. In this case, our emotions towards that leader dictates the strength of our relationship with God; when we are happy with the leader, we are happy with God and vice-versa.
That is why the greatest joy of the wilderness is that, it shows us what is in our hears concerning God. The Israelites experienced this when their 40 day journey turned into a 40 year one because, “the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to prove you, to know what was in your [mind and] heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” [Deuteronomy 8:2, AMP]. God had a purpose for the Israelites and had promised to lead them to the promised land which He promised their ancestors. Yet, He also knew that if their hearts were not right with Him, they would soon forget Him, forget all that He had done for them and fail to fulfil the purpose He had for them. Just like the Israelites, Joseph had to endure his wilderness phase because he was destined to bring a future solution to his people. God had chosen him for a time when he would be in a leadership position but, “they bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character” [Psalm 105:18-19, NLT]. The leadership position which Joseph had dreamed of many years ago, required that He have character and integrity and this could only be proved in the wilderness of abandonment, pain and suffering. After all it has been said that “the faith which has not been tested is a faith that cannot be trusted”.
Then there was Job, the man whom the Bible says was a pure and upright man before the Lord. In today’s world, He will be considered the epitome of who a real Christian should be. Yet, even he said after his wilderness experience that “I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!” [Job 42:5, The MSG]. This is a man who after His wilderness experience could now boast and say “I KNOW GOD”. Do we really want to know God and the depth of His heart? Then let us count it ALL joy when we go through diverse test and trials because when we have endured we will come forth as refined God, ready to fulfill the master’s purpose. We rejoice “in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us” [Romans 5:3-5, KJV].