Blessed be your name, when I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be your name
A friend of mine showed me photographs he had taken on a recent roadtrip through Namibia and I was left speechless at the beauty of the landscapes. Everything is so vast – so spacious – so empty. The starkness of the “void” is obvious, almost immediate… and yet. Yet, there is a majestic beauty that speaks straight to the soul; its almost unbearable in its intensity and its ability to stir one’s senses to the point of vulnerability. The sky’s expanse is too great, the landscape never-ending – it reduces one’s sense of self to nothing. Even through a photograph you have a very real understanding of your smallness in the greater scheme of things. Its humbling. Its breathtaking.
This evening at church we sang the worship song Blessed be your name and God reminded me of the images I had seen earlier. For the first time in my life I sang those words with a new understanding; the wilderness is not a place to avoid, but a place to embrace. In Christian circles we throw around descriptions like “mountain-tops”, “valleys” and yes, the “wilderness” – that place of spiritual nothingness where you feel lost and detached and far from connecting with God; its the proverbial place of testing and tribulation. Tonight, God showed me another aspect of it. The wilderness is a place of vast, magnificent beauty. Its a place of silence. A place of stillness. Its a place of solace. Its an awesome place of surrender to the magnitude of God’s perfection.
Its a matter of perspective.
When we approach the wilderness we have two choices: the first is to focus on the pathetic insignificance of who we are and become overwhelmed at our isolation, the second is to focus on the sheer grandeur of God – as evident in all that surrounds us.
The first choice too often leaves us in a state of semi-paralytic spiritual fear as we become almost suffocated by the silence and space. We panic at not hearing God’s voice or feeling His touch. We become absorbed in how the stillness affects us – we place ourselves at the centre of our focus and lose sight of the beauty around us. We inevitably close our senses to everything and complain that God has abandoned us and is now testing us through a season of great pain and difficulty. Its a rather inward and warped perspective. In ourselves, we’re too small and well, insignificant to truly appreciate the wilderness for what it is – the revelation of God’s greatness.
As I worshiped God this evening, I saw the wilderness from His perspective – the beauty of His creation, of His very Being, screaming silently for us to take note; for us to stop all the distractions and busy-ness of Life and simply to stand in awe-filled wonder at His Majesty. I know in my life, the wilderness periods always seem to follow a season of unnecessary busy-ness; seasons where I lose sight of God in the midst of all the Stuff and Things that so easily distract me. The wilderness often felt like a punishment; I see now that it was a refuge, a place of seclusion meant not to harm me in its isolation, but to restore me – to draw me back into the powerful arms of my Creator. When we learn to recognise the wilderness for that purpose, and are able to appreciate the beauty of its spacious stillness, I believe we will find a new strength and a new hope in being in that place of peace. We will focus not on ourselves, but on God’s glorious splendour and return to the true place of worship: humbled by His greatness and crying out Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. We will forget all that is us and fall before Him in wonderment – right there in the wilderness, in our place of “barrenness” – and will rise in a renewed strength, filled with His power.
The wilderness is not meant to drain us or hurt us, no its quite the opposite! When Jesus faced the wilderness and all the temptations satan had for him, he chose to focus not on himself or his situation, but rather, on the Truth of God’s Word. He returned his focus to God’s majesty and sovereignty and left the wilderness strengthened and confident, ready to complete the work God had prepared for him.
My prayer for you is – if you find yourself in the middle of a wilderness experience – that you would find the courage and strength to choose the second option; that you would focus on God’s majestic beauty and be left in awe of His greatness and the sheer force of His beauty. That vastness, that space you find yourself in is speaking of the enormity of God’s love for you – the endless grace He extends towards you. May you begin to worship Him with a renewed joy in the place of Silence. May the expanse of His Presence take your breath away.