Most of us can be persuaded that there is some purpose in our pain. Trite, but well-meaning people quote Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”
However, as I spiraled through loneliness, anorexia and depressions, I often wondered if I loved God enough for Him to plan good things for me. Perhaps, nothing could work out for me until I learned to express a more pure love for God.
In my pain, I kept making the same mistakes over and over and over. I chose other gods, gods of thinness, popularity, attention, perfection, admiration, fear and selfishness. My intentions became black and blue from abuse. Best laid plans of eating well tomorrow or moderating exercise were dashed with feeble strength. Every single day, I lied again, starved again.
Surely, God had banished me to this wilderness. I could see no avenues of hope, no yellow brick road leading out of my valley of the shadow of death. Perhaps it was simply time to follow the winding, ugly trail into faithless abyss and resignation.
However, I clung to a mirage that if I could by some strange means, clean myself up and present to God a hopeful situation, then He might help me.
“He withdrew to desolate places.”
Wait, you mean Jesus is here? Jesus is in a desolate place too? At least I’m in good company. So I sat down beside Jesus to recount my grievances. Maybe, just maybe, I could convince Him, with His good behavior, to plead my case before God. But, why was He here?
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
Wait, Jesus, you mean you led me here?
Jesus began to show me how many of His loved ones He had escorted into the wilderness so that it in the silence of a desolate place, they could hear His voice and see Him, unblinded by the chaos, glitter and glare of a seductive world. He spoke of Abraham and Joseph, Moses running from Pharaoh and becoming a shepherd, the nation of Israel, John the Baptist growing up in the wilderness, David fleeing from Saul, Elijah hiding from Jezebel, the disciples in Luke 9:12, Hagar as she prepared to watch Ishmael die and Jesus in His temptation. Jesus even taught in desolate places. (Mark 1:45)
“Do you see, Beloved? I brought you to the wilderness. Just like I was tempted in the wilderness, you have been too. And many, many times you have failed. But I did not. I redeemed every single one of your failures in anorexia and faithlessness. And now, now you call me ‘My Husband.’ No longer do you call me ‘My Baal’ for all those old idols have been smashed. You no longer even remember their names. In the wilderness, I wed you to me. I betrothed you to me in righteousness and in justice and in steadfast love and in mercy and faithfulness. Now you know me!”
It’s true! In no other place could I have been stripped of all distractions. In no other place could I have so clearly heard His voice. In no other place but the wilderness would I have sat still enough to inhale His grandeur. In no other place could I have committed to Him with such abandon.
Oh my Lord! Other gods besides you have ruled over me, but your name alone I bring to remembrance. Is. 26:13
In the wilderness, I have heard you speak tenderly to me. And you have won my heart.