Today’s guest post is by Whitney Standlea. You can find more of her writing here

The Lord leads His
children through the wilderness often. The “wilderness types” we might walk
through are many:
  • lonely places of longing for a mate or genuine
    Christian fellowship
  • spiritual dryness
  • feeling the heat and pressure of constant spiritual
    oppression
  • suffering through a financial crisis
  • physical ailments or chronic pain
  • fruitlessness in ministry
  • an unfulfilled desire
  • directionless
My husband and I have
been walking through the wilderness for the last several years embodying the
latter two. We had health, joy, fellowship, and many other blessings, but we
lacked direction. My husband was walking through life with a deep desire
to minister fully to God’s people. Several years post college graduation with a
Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and a growing family, he cut back on his
major responsibilities of volunteer ministry at church to meet the demands of
three children, a wife, and a home. Of course he was still ministering at the
church, but his passion and his calling to do more was constantly burning… with
nothing to be consumed by it except his own heart.
Stepping out in faith
we began (just over a year ago) to search for a vocational ministry position
for my husband. This time period seemed to be a climax of the directionless and
unfulfilled desire from the preceding years.  As we prayed and waited,
painstakingly search for a church that was solid in theology and a good fit for
his gifts, it seemed that nothing was certain around us. We put our house on
the market, but it wouldn’t sell for what we needed. We got close with one church,
but then weren’t chosen. We were constantly questioning whether to proceed with
putting resumes out or to wait until our home sold.
At Christmas time I
remember telling my husband how crazy the future seemed. As we considered
pulling out Christmas decorations we knew we could sell our house and be living
with my parents before it was time to open presents. We didn’t know where we
would be celebrating Christmas the following year. Still in our home? Living
with my parents still searching for a job? Living in Florida, Utah, Kentucky?
Would we have two mortgage payments? Would we be able to come home and see
family for Christmas? Where would he be working? How much money would he be
making? Would there be snow or beaches for Christmas? 
Would we be floundering
to build new relationships in an overwhelmingly large church or welcomed into
the homes of others from our newer and smaller church family? Uncertainty about
the future never seemed so extensive to me.
It was during this
time that I learned my first lesson in the wilderness: The future is always
uncertain. What changes is our perception of certainty.

The Christmas before
we had established our first Christmas traditions in our new home. We went
through the whole season assuming it would always be the same. Our Advent
Calendar would always be hung in the empty wall in the family room, we would
always watch the snow out our picture window, and family would be less than an
hour’s drive away. In reality, although not in the forefront of our minds, our
house could burn down December 26. My husband could lose his job December 27,
we could be called to leave for the mission field December 28. A crisis could
hit our church December 29 leading to a church-split and forcing our family to
find a new church “home. “Each day brings a circus of uncertainty that we aren’t even aware of.
When we stop to enjoy
the temporal blessings that surround us (a loving church family, a safe
neighborhood, a stable job), it is like a little oasis in the middle of the
wilderness. The sand stretches around us endlessly, but we are oblivious to the
wasteland around us because the overgrowth from our little paradise is too
thick to see out. It doesn’t take much, just a machete, to hack a little whole
in the bushes, and we see what lies on the other side: wilderness. Untamed,
unbridled, unknown.
God leads us into the
wilderness, no doubt. Sometimes he walks us out of our little oasis of
refreshing pools and out into the sand. My husband’s aching desire to minister
more provoked his dissatisfaction with our “oasis” and led him out past its
overgrowth. Sometimes our oasis is stripped from us as God sends trials, death,
and other kinds of loss that remove whatever “oasis” we were clinging to. It is
in the wilderness that he teaches us, refines us, and sanctifies us. And in the
wilderness, I learned a second lesson which answers every struggle:
Above all else, He
gives us Himself.

In times of
uncertainty, or whatever else we may be struggling with in our wilderness, God
has chosen to give us Himself. Remember the Israelite wanderings in the
dessert:
   
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along
the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might
travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire
by night did not depart from before the people.
(Exodus
13:21-22 ESV)
They did not know the
way. But Almighty omnipotent God was leading them. Not only did He lead them,
but He put His presence in the midst of them.  We certainly don’t walk
around with a pillar of fire guiding our steps anymore, but how remarkable is
the salvation that Christ has purchased for us! We have been promised that He
is with us always. That nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, that
His spirit abides in us if we abide in Him. What a precious hope it is that as
we walk through the dessert! Whether we are friend-less, mate-less, job-less,
money-less, direction-less, or health-less, we are never God-less. We
are never hope-less.

We are getting ready
to walk into a new “oasis.” My husband starts a new job soon that will allow
him to fulfill the burden God has placed in him. We have direction about big
life decisions like location, income, and living arrangements. As we walk out of
this “wilderness” these are the most important lesson I have learned: Nothing
is really certain. The oasis is truly a mirage. All the good
things in life come from God and we should certainly enjoy them. But if we will
reach out and touch them they will crumble. We will find they are only a
mirage, unable to stand the attacks thrown by life in a fallen world. But as we
walk back out in to the sand, we will find with certainty that God is certainly
present with us. He is certainly enough. As I enjoy this new season of seeming
certainty and blessing, I hope I can keep my eyes set on the greatest joy of
God’s presence, knowing that everything else can be gone in a moment.
May we walk with joy
in any wilderness He leads us through, knowing that He will give us Himself.
Excerpts from
Deuteronomy 8 (emphasis added):
“And
you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty
years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was
in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled
you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did
your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread
alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your
clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God
disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking
in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a
good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in
the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and
pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat
bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are
iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full,
and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping
his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied
and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you
forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with
its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water,
who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness
with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test
you, to do you good in the end.
(Deuteronomy 8 ESV)

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