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Wilderness Days

Posted by Caris Power on

As this email arrives in your inbox, I’m on my way home from a Wilderness Day Retreat. Now, while I’d love for you all to think I’m an intense outdoorsy person who can survive in the woods with just her wits and her trusty hatchet, let me say right out of the gate that I’m not that person and this was not that kind of retreat. Even though one of my favorite books as a kid was a youth survivalist story called Hatchet, I still prefer to keep civilization and its amenities near at hand. 

Nonetheless, at the beginning of the year Pastor Greg asked the staff if they would consider intentionally incorporating a monthly ‘Wilderness Day” into their spiritual and work/life rhythms; a sanctioned “work” day that involved us choosing to retreat anywhere where we could devote the day to reflection, prayer, and the Word. In the Great Story, we see the wilderness play a significant role in the narrative of God’s people and Jesus himself. It’s where Adam and Eve found themselves after being banished from the Garden of Eden, where the Israelites wandered after refusing to trust God to enter the promised land, and where Christ himself was taken by the Spirit to be tempted for 40 days and 40 nights. 

It was also where Hagar met the “God Who Sees Me,” where Moses encountered the great “I AM,” and where Elijah heard the still small voice of Yahweh speaking to him in his troubles. 

When we think of the wilderness, we don’t naturally consider it a destination or location we want to reside in. The wilderness feels like a barren and lonely place. A place outside our control with things that are not out for our good. An environment where our resources are used up quickly and there is no place to stock back up. A dangerous place. A desolate place. A place we have a hard time believing God is present in.

And yet time and time again in Scripture we see God leading the people he loved into that very same wilderness. Why?

First, God is there. He’s there in that wild wilderness. And frankly, because it’s the wilderness, I think we sometimes can see him more clearly there. When our illusions of control, safety, hope, value, love, and success slip away, we find that we and this world we live in are insufficient suppliers for the things we need and strive for. We discover we are not independent and self-sufficient beings. We are actually quite dependent on the One who makes and forms and loves us. 

In the wilderness, the pretense is stripped away, we find our need laid bare and exposed, and we finally relent and cry out to God for all we need. 

Then we see God make provision in the wilderness and hear God speak in the wilderness. We find God guiding and leading in the wilderness. We discover the Good Shepherd in the dark, dark valley.

God does some of his best work in us in the wilderness. The wilderness shakes us. He tests us in the wilderness. He refines and sifts us in a place where the sheer desolate nature of our environment drives us into His arms. It’s not a fun place to be, but looking back on my times in the wilderness, I can say with confidence that God was present there and that I was changed for the better through his work in me there. 

So, I’m grateful for these “Wilderness Days” that Greg encourages the staff to take monthly. We might not always feel like we are in the wilderness when we take them but stepping away to a solitary place for extended time of dependence on Him is so very necessary and formative. It’s a posture that we would be wise to carry into every other state we find ourselves in. 

Grateful to be journeying in the wilderness and out with you all, 



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