Sometimes we have to walk through the wilderness.
When I came to Africa, I knew it was my calling, but I never thought it would become my wilderness. I never imagined it would be the place where I would stumble, blinded by the heat of despair and the sands of doubt and fear. How could I have known the heavy rains of confusion would pour down on me, and, worst of all, unmerciful depression would beat down on me till I was ready to lie down and give up, or worse yet, turn around and go back.
We never think of the wilderness as a good place. We never think of it as a place to be happy for, a place to give thanks about, a place to bless. I know that I certainly never thought that. I was ready to curse the wilderness. I was ready to run away from it. In fact, I almost did.
I had come back to Zambia after a Christmas break full of plans and dreams of how it was going be. The first three months went so smooth I was sure the rest of it was going to be just as wonderful. Day two at the school and all those plans slapped me in the face. By the end of January I was seriously ready to call it quits. Out of the blue came problems I didn’t know how to handle, unfairness that I couldn’t cope with, and so many things that just didn’t make sense. I didn’t know how to deal with it on my own, butt they were the sort of decisions no one could make for me. I was scared, lost, and felt so alone.
By the end of February I wrote my mom and said I was coming home at the end of the term. Broken and destroyed, I was ready to accept defeat.
But not quite all of me.
Deep down, somewhere in the depths of my heart, a little voice kept nagging. It told me I was stronger than this, that I just needed to keep going forward. If I kept running a little farther I would find my second wind. It was okay that I felt hurt and lost, maybe that was part of God’s plan. Maybe as I wandered around, unsure of everything, I would find what I was looking for.
I went back and forth, back and forth. My reasons for leaving were perfectly justified, but I had once said that just because you could justify an action didn’t make it the right thing to do. It’s funny how easy it is to say something that sounds smart and full of wisdom, and how hard it is to eat your own medicine and to do your own saying.
Thus, confused and tormented, I came to God. I begged Him for help. And because He is always faithful, He gave me that help. No, He never took me out of that wilderness, rather He gave me the desire to continue going through it. That second wind I was sure would never come, came. It came from the Hands of a Maker who blesses us with joy and sorrow and knows that sometimes we don’t need the green pastures and the soft waters. Sometimes we need the valley of the shadow of death and the table in the midst of our enemies.
I wrote my mother that I had changed my mind, that I would remain until the end of the school year. Things sorted out, and while it is still a challenge I know I have the strength to make it through.
I cannot say I am out of the wilderness. Far from it! At the moment I feel like I’m stuck right in the middle of it. I may not have won the battle yet, but I did not let the battle win me. That is victory in itself.
Aleksander Solzenitsyn, the Russian writer who spent nearly a decade in a labor camp simply for being a POW and was later award the Nobel Prize for Literature, once said: “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”
While I cannot compare my little struggle to eight years in a labor camp, I can agree that I too have found that the object of life is the maturity of the human soul. And ease and comfort will never give you that. You need the struggle, you need the toil, you need the fight.
Jesus Christ said in His famous Sermon on the Mount, “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
That is why in life we must learn to bless the struggle, bless the hurt, bless the prison, bless the wilderness; for there we will find that we too are blessed.
(image from pixabay.com)