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There is Beauty in Your Wilderness

What do you worry about running out of? Is there anything? During the early months of the pandemic, I remember the crowded grocery lines and empty shelves when so many of us panicked over running out of toilet paper, water, food. But aside from physical items, is there anything else you’ve run low on? Maybe it’s energy, or influence, or talent, or ability. What about joy, peace, patience, health, relationships? A lack of any of these things can be unsettling and stress-inducing, leaving us feeling lost, empty, or worried about how to get back to a place of wholeness and balance.

In recent weeks, I definitely felt as though life was at a standstill. I had a minor surgery which went well, but set me back a couple weeks from doing all my normal things, and then, like many, my family and I became sick with Covid on a recent trip together, setting me back even longer. Aside from the initial shock and worry about how sick we all might get, I had to cancel a lot of things I had planned or committed to do. I had to bow out of helping with things I’d committed to at my church, cancel youth group, fall behind on these blogposts, miss a book-signing. Aside from the disappointment I felt I was causing others along with myself, I also felt so exhausted and run down for so many days that I worried whether I’d ever get enough energy back to fulfill all my future plans and responsibilities. The more I worried about all I’d cancelled and all I hadn’t accomplished, the more I began to believe the lie that I was failing miserably at pretty much everything!

I know many are going through or have gone through things far worse than what I'm going through, so I hope that what I share here will speak to anyone who needs some encouragement in those times.

In my recent Bible readings, reflections, and prayers, I've heard one message loud and clear, and I find it interesting how short and simple, yet truly life-giving it is. Similar to the message God put on my heart at Easter, which was “You are Loved,” the message I keep hearing over and over lately is “You are Enough.” I’m thinking I may not be the only one who needs that message today, so if you’re at all doubting whether you have enough strength, talent, skill, ability, patience, time, energy, or __________ (you fill in the blank here!), please repeat these words:

“I am enough. God is with me. He will provide what I cannot.”

That’s it. Simple words to remember at any time, any day.

The reality of this promise really sunk in recently when I was reading the story of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2. This is a familiar story to many, but read it again with fresh eyes. Keep in mind the fact that running out of wine at a wedding during this time would have been a very shameful and embarrassing thing. Also notice how Jesus’s mother trusts Jesus to do the right thing and tells the servants to simply, “Do whatever he tells you.” After following his instructions to fill the jars with water and take it to the master of ceremonies, the result is a miracle. The master of ceremonies responds with:

“A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now.” John 2:10

While I always thought this was a pretty cool story, turning water into wine, this recent reading struck me in a much stronger way. I read it and couldn’t help but feel like the same fear of running out of wine that the wedding hosts must have felt was the fear I was feeling of running out of the ability to do and accomplish well all the tasks ahead of me. This was the question that popped into my mind after I read it this time:

“What is the thing I’m worried about running out of that only Jesus can provide, and even better than I can imagine?”

The list of things I came up with was shockingly long. I realized I was worried about a lot of things that were never in my control in the first place. I was also reminded that my worrying was not going to help at all (read Matthew 6:25-34). I simply needed to look up and trust God to handle everything in exactly the way he knows best, even if his plan is much different than my plans and expectations.

On the week before I was supposed to go to my book signing, worried I was still contagious and not feeling the best, I let my editor know I couldn’t attend. She kindly offered to talk about my book at the bookstore anyway, so that made me feel a little better. But I still felt like I was missing out on a great opportunity, and aside from that, my husband and I had booked and paid for a place to stay a few hours from home, close to where the signing was located. While I tried to tell myself it would still be a nice weekend away, I have to admit that I felt like I was wasting our time and money. But once we settled in, and I sat back and looked at our surroundings, I knew God had much more planned for me than I could have imagined.

The place was beautiful, so peaceful, and because it was in a desert-like setting, it reminded me of how God fills our wilderness moments with beauty and peace when we finally step back and rest in him. I thought I needed to do more, be more; he forced me to stop and do nothing. As I sat and soaked in the scenery around me, I received a wonderful message from my editor, showing me posts from the bookstore promoting my book on their social media. While that wasn’t the same as being at the signing, it was incredibly exciting, and more than that, it was a reminder to me that God is still working, still providing, even when we might feel like we’re falling behind.

Parts of the desert may seem barren and dry:

But there is so much beauty if we wait and trust:

Wait and trust some more:

And keep waiting to find his peace:

We all have moments when life doesn’t seem to be going at all as we dreamed it would. We face wilderness moments, set-backs and disappointments, and many of us face things that are nearly impossible to handle. This is when I believe the expression “God never gives us more than we can handle” is a false statement. First of all, God isn’t the one giving the difficulties, but more importantly, the hard things he sees us go through are only manageable WITH HIM. We will receive more than we can handle on this earth.

John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

But in all these moments, he promises to be with us.

Matthew 28:20 says, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I know I will have to continue to remind myself of God’s strength and provision. As I write this, I’m still trying to convince myself that I’m going to have all the energy I need to go on a high school youth group trip next week. And then I hear these words in my mind:

“You are enough.”

So, I’m putting that on repeat, and I’m reminding myself everyday:

God knows what I need.

God knows how I feel.

God will provide.

Therefore, I am enough.

If you needed to hear those words today, I hope this message helped, and I pray for you to feel God with you, turning what’s empty into more than you could imagine, and reminding you every day to look to him when you need what only he can provide.

Journal Prompts and Suggested Readings:

This week, write down promises you find in the Bible that remind you of the strength and provision God gives. The book of Psalms is a great place to find many of these. Replace the words of doubt in yourself with the confidence that comes from God. Read them over as needed and pray for help remembering these promises in all the highs and lows of your days.

Here are some promises to get you started:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

Psalm 77:1 “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.”

Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings.”

Psalm 91:11 “For he will give his angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.”

Psalm 106:1 “Halleluiah! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.”

Psalm 121:1-4 “I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your protector will not slumber. Indeed, the protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.”

Here are a couple verses telling us what to do in our wilderness moments or actually, in all moments:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Matthew 6:33 “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

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