We’ve heard much about what God might be trying to show us during this pandemic. We have all felt the isolation and separation, the frustration from our inability to gather like we used to. Some have lost their jobs, even loved ones. But I submit to you that unless we’re led into a lonely place like this, we’ll never really know our true strength, or know who we are in Christ apart from the crowd.
Consider Jesus’ experience in the wilderness before being released into ministry:
Afterward, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the lonely wilderness in order to reveal His strength against the accuser by going through the ordeal of testing. (Matt.4:1 TPT)
Why does God lead Jesus into the wilderness? It’s certainly a place where there are no distractions, away from the crowd, but it’s also a place where there’s no else’s faith to lean on, to be encouraged by, or to mask our true spiritual state.
You might say it’s a place where we must learn how to leave our crutches and rise up and walk.
And, as David found out, it only looks like death; it’s shadow, not reality. And if we keep walking, we’ll eventually find what God has hidden for us on the other side.
4 Even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near. (Psalm 23:4 TPT)
Yes, it’s a lonely place, but it’s also the place where you finally know that you’re not alone!
Your relationship with God has the potential to either grow deeper or grow apart in this place. It will really depend on what you focus your heart on.
What is the purpose of a test? Is it not to reveal what we’ve learned, the strength of our character and resolve?
Think of it this way: will we ever really know what we really believe in a crowd?
One of the reasons we do need to gather together in a local church is to be encouraged in the faith, to learn from those who’ve gone before us, to benefit from the gift mix, to be part of something bigger than the whole. But if this is the extent of our experience, we will never truly grow. Growing comes in the testing, where it’s not someone else’s relationship and revelation of Jesus, but our own relationship and revelation that sustains us.
Think about it. Jesus had this ragtag band of disciples heal the sick and cast out demons, and yet they hadn’t even received the Holy Spirit! They were operating vicariously on Jesus’ faith and His relationship with the Father, not their own.
It’s in this “lonely place” of isolation where we finally come of age.
Just remember that we will never know our true progress in Christ in a crowd. We must all be taken to a lonely place in order to have that revealed to us.
Beloved, having this understanding about what’s happening to us, and in us, when we’re in a lonely place is critically important if we’re going to have the right perspective about why God is allowing it.
This is how we begin to understand that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom.8:28)
I’ve said before that the unexamined life is dangerous. Mostly dangerous to us, but also potentially toxic to our relationships.
Someone else will always be to blame when we look in the mirror.
But it’s rather easy to assess how this pandemic has affected our emotional and spiritual state. All we need to do is just be honest about how has this “wilderness” experience changed us in the last year. What triggers us?
How has the last year in relative isolation affected your faith, your passion for Jesus? Has your general sense of well-being changed? What about your relationships with friends, family, or even your chuch family? How you treat others? Have you grown closer or farther apart in these areas? If further apart, what is God trying to show you?
It seems to me that our whole culture has come apart at the seams during this time. But my question is, what about us as followers of Jesus? Have we grown from the experience or have we become shrunken?
There are many other questions we could ask ourselves, but once we honestly reflect on these things, all we need to ask ourselves is whether or not we passed this test. And the beautiful thing with God is that if you fail He will let you take the test over again…and again…and again! Nevertheless, it would be better to learn now than later, or never.