Written by Jenna Cherry, a core team member at Inspiring Hope Church.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
Over the last several months, my husband and I have been experiencing what I can only describe as a “wilderness” season. But what does that mean? Well for us, it has meant countless hours of asking for peace and clarity in our current situation. Asking questions like, “Why have you brought us here? What should we be doing to best utilize our time each day? Are we making any sort of impact for the kingdom? If so, what are we doing right? And if not, what are we doing wrong?”
But, as I’m sure many would agree, the heart ache and frustration does not come in the asking. It comes in the waiting. And the waiting became so frustrating because we felt as though we were met with silence. But what if God was using that silence to grow us? What if He was doing something in our hearts that we could not have imagined or understood without that time in the “wilderness”? This passage from Hosea so clearly reminds me of when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. I often imagine how awful and frustrating that could have been to be one of the people that never got to see the promised land. But then, I am quickly reminded that, if the Israelites had not been in the wilderness, they would have missed out on so many of the sweet miracles and promises of God. They would not have been nearly as mature when the time came to enter in to God’s promise. They would not have been intentional to “train up their children in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6), so that they would be prepared to go in and take the land. They would not have seen the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of food and water, or countless other beautiful examples of God’s mercy and grace. They would not have received the beautiful law that we now know is a major factor in what kept their nation preserved and thriving until today.
About a month ago, we were challenged to pray. And not just your everyday praying for your meal at dinner or praying for traveling mercies (not that any of those things are bad). But we were challenged to truly cry out to the living God who hears us. So I shook the dust off my prayer journal, and I began to voice deep, heartfelt, vulnerable prayers. Prayers that, in another season of life, I never would have had the boldness or faith to pray. And let me tell you, “when you seek the Lord, you will find Him, when you seek Him with ALL your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). I found that, as I was spending more and more time in prayer and meditating on the Word each morning, the Lord was pouring out His Spirit on me. He was prompting me to take more steps of faith and boldness every day. He was challenging me to stop thinking so much about me and my own situation, but rather to open my eyes that I might see what He was seeing, feel what He was feeling, and experience a glimpse of Heaven coming down to Earth. As my husband and I did this together, He allowed us to be a part of some truly beautiful moments that (just like the Israelites) we would’ve missed out on if we had not been walking with Him.
So often, we are fooled into thinking that we are doing fine most of the time, and we will say a prayer occasionally in a moment of hurt, desperation, suffering, etc. Then we will move on with our lives until the next big crisis. However, scripture very clearly commands us to, not only pray, but to pray continually.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in trials, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
So what does this mean? Pray constantly? Without ceasing? That seems like a lot. That’s because the Lord knows that we are human. We are sinful in nature, and we will absolutely fail every single day. Just look at the great examples we have from the Israelites in the wilderness.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, He said, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” When we pray, we are inviting Heaven into our lives. When we think we don’t have time to pray, we are essentially telling God, “I got this”. We try to figure things out in our own strength and with our own wisdom. We become just like the Babylonians whose “own strength was their god” (Habakkuk 1:11). We are left feeling frustrated, depressed and defeated, and we wonder why we have no peace or contentment in our hearts.
So what can we do to grow closer to the Lord and further away from our sinfulness? We can pray. What can we do when we are suffering? Pray. What can we do when we are bursting with thankfulness over some way that God has provided? Pray. And not just pray once or twice a day or once or twice a week or month, etc. We are commanded to pray all the time. How else can we know that our hearts are aligned with His?
As David so beautifully says it in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
When we walk closely with the Lord every day, this is what we get to experience! True life. Fullness of joy. Pleasures forevermore at His right hand.
So whether you are walking through a wilderness season of life or coasting through good times. Whether you are suffering or celebrating. Whether you are at peace or deep turmoil. My prayer is that you might allow the Lord to pull you away from all the noise and speak tenderly to you. Pray with boldness and great faith. And watch as He unfolds His beauty and grace before your eyes.