We all walk through peaks and valleys—and we all have our wilderness experiences. But there’s a big difference between being a voice crying in the wilderness in obedience to God and finding yourself stuck in the wilderness, going around the same mountain over and over (and over).
I’ve experienced both realities, and I can tell you the former is liberating because you know you are smack-dab in the center of God’s will. The latter is frustrating because you know you’re absolutely missing it somewhere.
Of course, if you don’t have a revelation of why you are in the wilderness—if you are antsy for your big ministry debut, even though it’s not God’s timing—then you could be frustrated even in the will of God.
So, how do we interpret our wilderness experiences? With the help of the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I’m offering up a few possibilities here. There may be others. The important thing is not to play guessing games about the season you find yourself in. You need revelation and understanding that you can hang your faith on while you go through the wilderness so you don’t faint and give up.
1. Unbelief and Rebellion Will Leave You Wandering in the Wilderness
Sometimes you find yourself wandering in the wilderness year after year after year. It feels like you are going around the same mountain over and over (and over). That may be because you are. Remember, it was a three-day journey from the Red Sea to the Promised Land, but the Israelites wandered around in the wilderness, circling Mount Seir, for 40 years.
Why did it take so long? One reason was unbelief. The Father was prepared to take them into the Promised Land after two years, but 10 of the 12 spies Moses sent into the Promised Land brought back an evil report of unbelief (Num. 14). God waited until all the unbelieving men of war died, just like He said He would (Deut. 2:14).
Psalm 78:17 also notes that the Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness. And Hebrews warns readers, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years” (Heb. 3:8-9). If you have been in the wilderness for years, ask the Holy Spirit if there is unbelief or rebellion in your heart.