The Wilderness Experience
Life has rhythms. We live in seasons. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. At Skillman, we are heavily emphasizing the idea of “living by faith” right now. That is our season. And as we seek to live into this rhythm, we know that other rhythms will try to push their way to the front of our attention. One of these rhythms that comes to us all is the wilderness experience or the “dark night of the soul.” It is during this time that faith in God is attacked or can be attacked. It is the chaos of life that interrupts us, encroaches upon the rhythms that we are seeking to live by, and disrupts that which we are seeking to do as we live faithfully.
Jesus goes through a wilderness experience of his own in Matthew 4, he consistently experienced opposition and violence during his ministry, and he experiences betrayal as his life comes to a conclusion at the end of the Gospels (of course, he is then also resurrected shortly thereafter and we are most grateful for this). The rhythms of peace and practicing the presence of God, however, were certainly attacked in Jesus’ life, and the forces of chaos (what Scripture calls the principalities and powers) will also certainly be present in our lives, encroaching upon us.
So, what are we to do? How are we to live, knowing that the forces of chaos in the world are out there, and that we will be affected by them at some point during our lives, if we haven’t already?
In Genesis, this problem is well articulated in the opening prose and poetry concerning creation, Adam and Eve, and how the created interact with the Creator. The story of Scripture is set within the context of a breaking of the creation–the presence of evil, the ability of humanity to place themselves in the role of ultimately trustworthy and the like. Adam and Eve (Adam which basically means “dirt clump” and Eve which means “living” serve as representative figures for everyone, man and woman, who desire relationship with God but who also struggle with selfishness and want to place their trust in themselves rather than in God) find themselves separated from God. What they desire–intimacy with the Creator–is lacking. And the rest of the story of the Bible is focused on how do we regain relationship with God? How do we encounter this God in our lives? What is God doing to get us there and how can we join him?
Basically, Genesis 1-3 and the entire story of Scripture are asking, “What do we do when what we most want (God) is not what we are experiencing? What do we do when it looks like the chaos is winning? How do we have faith during such a time?
Perhaps this is too simplistic, but we prepare for these moments in our faith. We do so through any number of means: consistent community involvement, encouragement from other believers, study of Scripture and learning from believers through the ages. But we also do so through the regular use of spiritual disciplines–like prayer.
Among the many things that prayer can help us to do, prayer helps us to stop in the midst of the chaos and to pay attention to God. To be attentive to God. To bring order to our lives by inviting God to help us in the midst of chaos.
And so, this week, perhaps something that can remind you in the good times and the bad, in the middle of the chaos or as you live in close relationship with God is to prepare for whatever life will bring your way. Pray even knowing that you don’t know what will come next in life. Pray and practice your faith each and every day. Do so inviting God into the chaos. Pray as if you are preparing for you know not what.