Fellow Redbud, Monica Selby, shares her wilderness experience today. May you be encouraged that you are not alone. Meditate on the truth of God’s Word.
Until recent years, I was very delusional about the Biblical concept of the wilderness. When I read about the concept of “dark night of the soul,” I held a romantic image in my head. Something like a tortured artist, only with God. I was 20, a fairly new believer, passionate about everything. While the idea appealed to me, I also never really believed I would experience a wilderness. God was just too—present.
Until He wasn’t.
My oldest son was 13 months old when I was put on bed rest with our twins. Five months of no holding, no cuddling, no touching, because his every little move put me back into labor. By the time the twins arrived, I was deep in depression, wilderness, dark night, or whatever you want to call it. Over the next five years, wave after destructive wave crashed over us, and I sputtered through life, barely hanging on.
I tried to cultivate disciplines like prayer and reading the Word. But, where my earlier faith was characterized by a very real sense of God’s presence, I no longer felt Him at all. Worship songs, verses that were old favorites, journaling, and all physical acknowledgement of my faith became odious to me. I never lost faith that God was who He says, or in Jesus, but I became angry and bitter that I had to experience all that was happening without the comforting assurance of feeling His presence.
In my imagination, the wilderness always had a clear stopping point. The trees come to a sudden halt, opening into a wide meadow. The desert ends abruptly, giving way to green land. The silence from God, the closeness of despair, one day disappears with a loud voice from heaven.
It hasn’t been like that. Rather, over the last year, the wilderness has slowly given way to life. Some days, I’ve felt right back in the trees, or slogging through the heat of the desert. But oh, so slowly and painfully, I’m finding myself strengthened by the presence of God more and more. It’s as if I’m waking up, after five long years of fitful sleep.
Which brings me to my last delusion: I thought when the dark night ended, the rejoicing would be such that all the previous pain would be wiped away. Perhaps you would even look back and see joy instead of pain.
I’ve read that the first five years of a child’s life are some of the most important. Well, for the first five years of my twins’ lives—and most of my oldest son’s as well–I’ve struggled with depression and wilderness. The mistakes I made with them, as I struggled, leave deep scars in my heart. I mourn the loss of so many joyful times. Besides my family, I know I’ve also ruined relationships, lost chances at friendships that would have been great. It hurts to know that in my numbness, I hurt others.
I spent the week before my son started first grade crying over every little thing. I truly, deeply mourn the loss of so much.
But, there’s a small part of me that rejoices. The tears are a mark of a softening heart, the Lord replacing my former heart of stone with one of flesh. I’m thankful for the tears because they mean I’m no longer numb all over. When I’m quiet, I can even hear the soft, still Voice again, comforting losses and forgiving mistakes.
May you meditate on these promises of God through the prophecy of his Son Jesus Christ:
[The Father] has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteous,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1b-3