Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Marian L. Jordan's new book, Wilderness Skills for Women: How to Survive Heartbreak and Other Full-Blown Meltdowns, (B&H Publishing Group, 2008).
If you’re going through a time that tests your faith right now, it can feel like you’re stuck out in the middle of the wilderness, exposed to the harsh elements and feeling the pain. But if you trust God as you endure hardships, you’ll eventually emerge from the wilderness transformed for the better.
Here’s how you can survive the wilderness seasons of life:
Realize that you’re not alone. Everyone finds themselves wandering around the wilderness at some point in their lives. Others are also dealing with whatever form of heartbreak is causing your current wilderness season, whether it’s a breakup, miscarriage, personal failure, illness, financial crisis, infertility, divorce, death, abandonment, illness, unemployment, or something else. Most importantly, Jesus Himself knows what’s you’re going through – and He cares. He suffered a lot during His time on earth, and He’s right beside you in your own wilderness, willing to guide you through it.
Walk through the wilderness of rejection. If you experience rejection, don’t allow it to define your worth. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you – as someone who is highly valued. Only God’s opinion ultimately matters, and His love overrules every other opinion, evaluation, and criticism. Jesus knows what rejection feels like, and He is with you in your time of need. Don’t despair. Instead, cry out to God, remembering that His promise never to leave or forsake you. Often, what seems like rejection is actually God’s protection from something you think you want, yet He knows wouldn’t be best for you. If you trust God, He will cause the circumstances of your life to work together to fulfill a good purpose. Don’t lose hope, because God remains in control. Ask God to give you His peace, even when you don’t understand why the rejection has happened to you. Decide to trust Him.
Walk through the wilderness of temptation. Behind every temptation you encounter lies insidious questions: “Does God really have my best interest at heart?”, “Can I really trust Him?” and “Don’t I know what’s best for me?”. During times of temptation, Satan often bombards you with accusations about God’s goodness and trustworthiness. Something vitally important is at stake – whether or not you will still love and worship God n the midst of temptation. When Satan tempts you to distrust God’s character, God watches to see if you’ll believe. Choose to be faithful to God in the face of temptation. You’ll never regret that decision. Also, keep in mind that God is worthy of your worship in every situation, simply because of who He is. When you choose to praise God even while you’re tempted to turn away from Him, you turn a dangerous situation into an act of worship.
Walk through the wilderness of despair. As a believer, you always have hope. God sees what you’re going through, hears your concerns, and understands your situation even more fully than you do. Place your hope in God alone – not in any circumstance you hope will come into your life. If you’re longing for a child yet facing infertility, hope in God rather than your physicians or medical technology. If you yearn to get married but are still single, trust God to lead you to your future spouse rather than placing your hope in your appearance or other efforts to attract a mate. If you want a certain job, look to God to open doors rather than placing your hope in your intellect, talents, or experience. Everyone and everything besides God is unpredictable, but God is completely reliable. Look beyond your circumstances to God. Set your mind on Him and focus on His goodness, power, and glory. Once you make that choice, your emotions will follow course and you will be lifted out of despair.
Walk through the wilderness of unmet desires. When you’re waiting for something you hope for to become a reality, you can feel like you’re stuck while other people’s lives are moving forward. You may wonder if God has forgotten you. Pray for God to give you the strength you need to avoid envy and be genuinely happy for others who are enjoying what you desire but don’t have. Ask God to guard your mind from comparing and coveting. Don’t try to manipulate your way into getting what you want; the easy way out will never truly fulfill you. Whenever a worry creeps into your mind, turn it into a prayer. Choose to trust God to meet your heart’s desires. If you encounter an opportunity to obtain your desires that seems too good to be true, don’t act impulsively. Instead, pray about it and make sure that it aligns with God’s will for you. Remember that God is good, and He will meet the desires of your heart that are best for you, in His perfect timing. Keep praying about your desires, honestly telling God how you feel, but making sure that you fully entrust those desires to Him. Imagine yourself taking each of those desires to the foot of the Cross and leaving them there for Jesus to handle. Learn how to rest and wait on God to work in your life, in His way and at His time.
Drink plenty of water. Jesus is the Living Water who will refresh your soul during your time in the wilderness. Find your daily source of life and fulfillment in Him. Meet Jesus in His Word, the Bible, and drink deeply from it every day. Set a specific time of day to meet with Jesus, begin your time with prayer, read and reflect on a portion of Scripture, and ask Jesus questions about what you read. Consider asking questions like these: “What do I learn about God (the Father, the Son, the Spirit) from this Scripture?”, “What do I learn about myself from this Scripture?”, “What commands/instructions should I obey?”, “What truth can I apply to my life?”, “What sin do I need to confess?”, “What promises can I claim?” and “What does God reveal about my wilderness season?”. You may want journal your thoughts and impressions that come as you read the Bible. The more you drink the Living Water, the more you’ll crave it.
Seek shelter. Jesus’ name is the ultimate shelter for when you’re going through a storm. Simply saying His name out loud invokes unique spiritual power and ushers in the peace that only comes from Him. Banish your fear with faith by praising Jesus for who He is and what He has done. Run to the shelter of the name of the Lord.
Beware of snakes. Satan appeared as a snake in the Garden of Eden, and he is still at work trying to tempt people to sin today. Be on guard against him, realizing that he wants you to doubt God’s heart for you, doubt God’s character, and doubt your own salvation. Whenever you encounter Satan’s deceptive ploys, respond as Jesus Himself did when He faced Satan in the wilderness – by quoting a biblical truth out loud in response to Satan’s lies. Take inventory of your thoughts and ask God to show you which ones reflect listening to or believing evil lies. Base your thoughts firmly on biblical truth. Realize that your thoughts lead to your emotions, and your emotions lead to your actions – so your thoughts are crucial to living a faithful life. Be careful not to entertain Satan’s lies, because doing so means allowing him to dictate your emotions and actions. Decide to stand in truth, especially in the wilderness.
Don’t eat the red berries. Beware of bitterness, which will poison your soul like a wild red berry can poison your body. Deal with unhealed wounds that cause bitterness by honestly and openly expressing your emotions, getting real before God, and asking for help to process your pain and heal. Deal with unmet expectations that cause bitterness by refusing to place the burden of your happiness or completion on someone or something other than God. Place your hope in God rather than on people or things in your life. Deal with unforgiveness that causes bitterness by releasing the debts you feel are owed by people who have hurt you. Answer God’s call to forgive, because He has forgiven you. Rely on God to help you through the process. Invite God to use the suffering you’ve gone through in the wilderness to make you a better person – better instead of bitter – by helping you grow in maturity.
Enjoy the adventure. Don’t miss the wild – God’s incredible plan – in the wilderness around you. All the pain is worth it if it helps you experience the wild adventure of trusting God in new and deeper ways. Trust Him, and enjoy the adventure of walking through any place with Him.
Adapted from Wilderness Skills for Women: How to Survive Heartbreak and Other Full-Blown Meltdowns, copyright 2008 by Marian L. Jordan. Published by B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tn., www.bhpublishinggroup.com.
Marian Jordan is the founder of Redeemed Girl ministries in Houston, Texas, where she currently resides. She served as a teacher of Systematic Theology and Biblical Exegesis at Second Baptist School in Houston from 2002 to 2007. She recently started her own full-time speaking teaching ministry and is pursuing a Master’s of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Theological Seminary. Marian travels and speaks to women all over the United States at college campuses, churches, and women’s conferences.