“My life is like this abandoned pile of junk.” The thought permeated my mind as the smell of the city garbage penetrated my nose. Sweat trickled down my face as I took another sip of my latte and smirked at the irony.
On a hot Saturday morning, I stood in the middle of the city dump and surveyed a massive pile of lumber that my friend was about to retrieve as lumber carpentry art. I had just been let go from a job that was my everything.
As I stood there in the 88-degree heat, I couldn’t help but replay the moment I was asked to hand over my badge as a high-profile journalist. That job was my everything. And I didn’t understand why God would allow this to happen.
Looking back four years later, this moment was the beginning of my wilderness years with God. He had ushered me into the desert much like the Israelites.
Why is this so significant? Because the wilderness years are the grounds in which God sifts and refines our spirits and hearts in order to mirror his.
If he cannot cultivate the grounds of our hearts to mirror his reflection and character, how can we function much less reflect his image in the Promised Land?
If Israel was ever going to enter and abound in the Promised Land, they would first need to walk through the wilderness with God’s word in their hearts, they would first need to know how to be brought low (Philippians 4:12).
Like me, and possibly like you, they would need to be taken into the desert and learn the only thing they would ever need is Jesus.
Exposed in the Desert
Have you ever had your hopes dashed, a devastating thing happen, or a situation never seems to get better? That’s often what the wilderness season feels like.
The Israelites felt the same way. They were set free from the Pharaoh, but they were far from being free from the sins of complaining, lack of trust in God, and stubborn hearts. Their eleven-day journey to the Promised Land turned into 40 years.
In fact, many of those who left Israel never saw or entered the Promised Land. Instead, they wandered the wilderness in a constant cycle of complaining, worshipping idols, and watching God respond. This is why God called them into the wilderness.
The wilderness is defined as an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. Do any of these things sound comfortable? They’re not supposed to be, it's not a comfortable place because it’s temporary.
The wilderness is a womb in which God’s character can grow if you let it. It is a make-or-break kind of season. Its purpose is to free you from sin and bondage so you can be transformed into the person God has called you to be.
Our wilderness seasons do not create the cancer that comes out of us; it exposes what was already there but hidden under distractions, business, and abundance.
Because God loves us, he puts these idols in plain view so we can see them, deal with him, and bury them in the desert. There is no place for them in the Promised Land. Romans 8:14-17 reminds us of this:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
What Is the Significance of the Promised Land?
Depending on how the term is used, the Promised Land represents either a physical location in Israel or “a place or situation where someone expects to find great happiness. When you examine the true meaning and origin of the Promised Land, you will find it first referenced in Genesis 12.
This is the introduction of God’s involvement and movement in the Promised Land. He instructs Abram (before God renamed him Abraham) to leave what is familiar to him and go to a land that God predestined for him and his descendants.
“…Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Later, God promises him a land flowing with milk and honey. It’s not just the land that God promised the Israelites. Israel acquired the Promised Land only through God’s guidance and his miraculous intervention in history (Exodus 33:14–16; Psalm 44:1–8; 136:10–22).
At that time, in the Bible, the boundaries of the Promised Land were from the River of Egypt (the Nile) to the Euphrates (Exodus 23:31). Today, it includes modern-day Israel, including Gaza and the West Bank, and Jordan, as well as parts of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
The Promised Land isn’t just the physical land that God promised as a heritage to his people. Some refer to heaven as the Promised Land. God’s eternal Promised Land is the heritage of all who come to him through his Son (John 14:6).
It’s also figurative in terms of our relationship with God. Today’s more modern definition of the Promised Land speaks about a better life, situation, joy in the Lord, and living the abundant life he promised us. It comes through our obedience and love for our mighty God.
Today, if you are standing in the middle of the wilderness or perhaps, you’re standing on the edge of the Promise Land, remember he will never leave you or forsake you. The journey you are on will have victory in Jesus. Embrace the wilderness moments knowing that it will give way to the Promise Land with Christ!
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Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman, and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.