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Mar 22, 2018

What Deserts and Traps Say About God

Sarah Christmyer

Going into the WildernessThey say when God closes a door, he opens a window—but I’m not sure that’s always true.

There are times when God hems us in from all sides, removes our options, puts our backs against the wall — and that, too, is part of his loving plan.

Love in the Wilderness

Consider the children of Israel at the time of the first Passover.

Egypt, stunned by the plague on their first-born, frees the Hebrew slaves. God leads them toward the Promised Land but he doesn’t take the easy way. Instead, he takes them through the wilderness toward the Red Sea and there he deliberately traps them.

Why?

“For Pharaoh will say… the wilderness has shut them in” and go after them. And God will give Egypt—and Israel—an unforgettable lesson in who really is the LORD.

Consider Gomer, the harlot married by Hosea (she is a picture of Israel, in a covenantal “marriage” relationship with God).

When she continues to pursue other lovers, Hosea says he’ll “hedge up her way with thorns” and “build a wall against her.” She may not like it, but it’s not a punishment as much as a place of rehab. Denied access to her tempters, he hopes she will return to him.

“Behold, I will allure her” (this is God speaking now to Israel, as much as Hosea to Gomer), “and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her … I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.”

The Cleansing Power of “Roughing It”

Sometimes it’s only in the wilderness—only in a place hemmed in and free of distractions—that we can hear the still small voice of God calling to us. Sometimes it’s only in a tough spot where there is no way out that we can experience the liberation of God from the things that enslave us.

This Lent, allow God to take you into the wilderness. Put yourself into his hands, and listen to his call of love.

(You can read about Israel’s flight in Exodus 13-14, and about Gomer in Hosea 3).

This article was first published March 19, 2014 on The Great Adventure Blog.


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  • I cannot escape from the filial relationship of God as Father; His created as children. Wilderness experiences, therefore, I equate with timeouts. It is our own actions, threats placed on growth in holiness, which necessitate the wilderness experience. What parent randomly chastises a child for no apparent reason? A timeout, in reality though, is not so much punishment as it is a chance for the child to calm down, reflect on sinful/disordered behavior, apologize where necessary, resolve not to do it again.
    God’s timeouts for all His people, individually and collectively, serve the further purposes of protection – from ourselves and those who would enslave us to sin/disordered living, and strengthening that we resolve to withstand the sinful temptations in future. We can grow stronger through the experience, if we choose. And as you point out, Sarah, we don’t sit alone in the wilderness (timeout). If we can still our minds and listen, we can hear God in His mercy calling us back.

      • No; thank you! I have really enjoyed connecting with people from all over and sharing our insights/applications in these forums. I have been out of ministry for a little over a year and discerning God’s will for me next. I was a pastoral associate for several years, having completed my Masters in Pastoral Ministry through St. Mary’s University in Minnesota. I have also been facilitating adult Scripture studies for the past 10 years, utilizing mostly the Ascension Press materials. These threads have kept my mind from atrophying, and assisted me in my own personal wilderness!
        I would actually love to work
        for Ascension Press, traveling to promote the materials! God bless you all for the work you do to advance the New Evangelization through these study opportunities.

  • I have had many wilderness/desert experiences in my spiritual walk…Here is a poem I wrote about the experience:
    Desolation

    Being in a quagmire of despair,
    A soul in need of repair,
    Turmoil within and without,
    Letting out a cry and a desperate shout,
    Hurt, pain, and weakness
    Seem to be the only feelings alive in the bleakness.

    Hanging on by a thread,
    When will my heart be fed?

    When I turn around and look
    I see the sparkling, bubbling brook,
    Of what it was before this trial began…
    Of radiant grace which there ran.
    The desert here is a sign,
    Of how we grow by God’s design.

    How do we here cope?
    God gives us the grace of Hope.

  • I think I am in the wilderness right now with God because within the past year, so many issues have come up with my family. With debilitating illnesses and other issues, including the passing of some close relatives.
    It has given me pause to contemplate about my true faith in the Lord, Our God. I am still wandering in the wilderness looking for the source of the call that God is giving me. It is faint but I can hear it. With that slight clue, I know that God still loves me as I do Him. The human mind questions why and receives no answers.
    That is where I am at right now. Will my faith sustain my love for God? I am praying it will. One example is my daughter is in such debilitating pain each and every day and I cannot understand why someone as wonderful and pure as she, is going through this. I pray but she doesn’t get better.

    I am still in the wilderness and I can faintly hear my name called.

    • I will pray for her and for you. There is no way of knowing why things happen to people. I had a brother who was hit in a car accident and his back was destroyed beyond repair. He lost weight, went to rehab, etc. He began taking pain meds. Six months later, he committed suicide. He was a very caring, loving doctor for 20 years. I have prayed for him everyday. My faith has sustained me in my struggles. Mike even came to me in a dream in his glorified body. He was smiling, glowing and filled with joy. Take courage from the Blessed Mother and persevere in prayer. May God’s blessings be seen and flow through your prayers to your daughter.

      • Thank you, Mel for those kind words. I try to give it to God but then, being a Mom, I take it away from Him. My daughter is still in so much pain and the doctors don’t know what is going on. I keep praying something will happen or someone will have an answer.

        • We lost a daughter last year, seeing a child go through suffering and pain is very hard for parents…What has helped me tremendously is praying the Our Lady of Tears Rosary (or Mary’s 7 Sorrows Rosary). It is on You Tube and hits home for me as it tells about Mary’s 7 sorrows. Mary has walked our walk, and when I pray, I ask her to walk with us once again. I can really relate to each sorrow she has gone through.

          • Beverly, My heart goes out to you and your family. My condolences on your loss. I will pray to Mary and thank you for the suggestion of the Lady of Tears Rosary. May God Bless.

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