Jesus wants to meet “you in your wilderness”!

The wilderness is a place of mystery and meaning-making. It’s an environment that features prominently in the Old and New Testaments. In the Bible, people sometimes end up in wild, open spaces of their own volition but not always. There are also occasions when folks would really prefer to be anywhere else, but they’re stuck in the wilderness nevertheless.

Today, as we reflect on the prominence of literal desert-like places in Scripture, we’ll ponder spiritual deserts, too. They’re seasons of holy wrestling and personal transformation, and they can happen within us at any age. Over the course of a lifetime, most of us will find ourselves traversing a challenging spiritual landscape at least a few times.

How do we end up in the wilderness?

On a recent work trip to Chicago, I got disoriented inside the building where the meeting was located. I hadn’t been there in several years, but I thought I still remembered my way around. I didn’t. And as I tried to find the office of the person with whom I was scheduled to meet, I ended up lost and unsure of how to get back to the floor where I started so I could begin again.

Sometimes we end up in seasons of spiritual wilderness without knowing how we got there. Life can be chugging right along when, due to any number of twists and turns, we can find ourselves experiencing isolation and uncertainty.

The opposite pathway into the desert is also possible. Sometimes we walk directly in with clarity and a sense of purpose. This was the case for John.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 3, we encounter John, a man who intentionally built a life in the wilderness. He wore camel hair and a leather belt while surviving on a diet of locusts and wild honey. People felt compelled to leave their city dwellings and go out to meet John, and when they did, they experienced spiritual awakening. John ended up in the wilderness by choice. Perhaps it was where he could hear God most clearly.

In the Old Testament book of Exodus, we encounter a whole bunch of people who had a very different experience than John. They spent about 40 years in the wilderness. It was not something they wanted, but it was part of their story nevertheless. The Israelites had to learn how to live in a challenging spiritual and physical environment for a very long time.

What can we do in a spiritual wilderness?

Whether we arrive in the desert by choice or by circumstance, there are practices that can support us along the way.

Pray and listen.

Jesus went out into desolate areas regularly. Oftentimes he did so alone when the rest of the community was asleep. Perhaps it was a time to process his own wonderings and spiritual restlessness. Out in the dark and quiet, Jesus prayed. He talked to God. We, too, can talk to God. In the spiritual deserts of life, we can also listen.


More than once, I’ve found myself in a spiritual wilderness after grasping too tightly to something I needed to release. Humans can clench onto so many parts of life — often to our own detriment: illusions about ourselves and others, laundry lists of unmet expectations, toxic nostalgia, blame and bitterness. The wilderness can be a place where we choose to let go.


When everything is quiet and all delusions have melted away, the capacity to imagine sometimes returns. God said, through the prophet Isaiah (43:19), “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” The Creator and Connector of Everything can always make a way. When we’re navigating a season of uncertainty, it can be a time to reconnect with the power of imagination, envisioning all the possibilities that still await.

For some, the holidays feel like a wilderness trek each and every year. Let’s be gentle with ourselves and others. Many have journeyed through the most scorched of landscapes — the details of which we’ll probably never know. Tread tenderly and with compassion.

In conclusion,

In the wilderness of life, you may feel tired, depressed, and discouraged. You may feel as though your prayers seem to go unanswered. You may also feel as if your prayers are not benefiting anyone or anything. This is when you need to invite Jesus into the wilderness of your life and start listening to Him instead.

You are in a season where Jesus can minister healing to you and pull you out of discouragement. John 15:7 states “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” That means that whatever your prayer concerns are today, Jesus has already answered them by promising that if we abide in Him then His promises will be fulfilled!

Pray and invite Jesus into your wilderness by saying the following,

Dear Jesus, I invite you to come in my wilderness. Reveal yourself to me and help me discover what to do next to cope with my wilderness experience. Minister to me, strengthen me, encourage me, bless me and help me to survive what I am going through so that God gets the glory in my story and so that I get my life fixed. It is in your name I ask and pray dear Jesus, my precious friend and savior. I exalt you in the land and draw near to you and I promise to give you glory, to share your name with others and help those you place in my paths because you have delivered me in, through and out of my wilderness season! Amen!