Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Finding Intimacy with God in the Wilderness

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IMG_7603It all started with a simple desire to remodel our home. We had no idea God planned to use such an “unspiritual” situation to test and refine our faith. He took us on a long, painful journey through the wilderness. In fact, I’ve spent the last several years writing the entire story and pursuing options for getting it published.

Reading Priscilla Shirer’s words inspired me to share an excerpt from my manuscript that illustrates her point: “The exodus was for this moment—when God’s people would be brought unto Himself and begin intimate fellowship and covenant with Him. This was His goal above getting them to Canaan.” (One in a Million, p. 84)

Below you’ll find a portion of my family’s remodel story: From Our Mess to God’s Best.

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Over the months, the process of remodeling our tiny home had been filled with revealing moments…We’d anticipated the financial cost of the project and the inconvenience it would cause, but had failed to recognize the emotional and spiritual toll it would take on us.  

The thought of having our faith stretched by our remodel hadn’t occurred to my husband or me. We’d learned to trust God through a number of hardships and had favorite Bible verses that comforted us through job transitions, difficult relationships, anxiety, depression and the deaths of family members. We believed God used hardships for good and had seen evidence of it in our lives.

However, we also prided ourselves in our self-sufficiency and our ability to problem-solve smaller issues on our own. Good planning and common sense had kept daily life orderly for almost seventeen years of marriage. We’d never considered that the Lord had things to teach us through the problems that arose from living in a privileged, industrialized society. God was using a mess of our own making to transform us from the inside out, whether we wanted Him to or not…

One of the first challenges came before the bulk of the remodel had even started.  Our contractor wouldn’t make eye contact as he told us the news. “The city’s building department rejected the plans.”

For a moment we were speechless, unable to process this development…The city’s issues meant the modest remodel that was so much smaller than our original dreams now needed to be scaled back even further. We had orchestrated our time line down to the last detail and anticipated construction beginning just after Christmas, once everything had been approved. We had no time buffer for delays in our idealized schedule. This remodel had been years in the making. We’d run short on patience and were ready to start…We never imagined there would be a problem with the plan approval…

The contractor left and my husband closed the door and disappeared into the office without saying a word. An overwhelming combination of disappointment, anger and defeat felt like a wave crashing down on me. Neither one of us seemed able to talk about how we were feeling without making things worse.

I retreated to our bedroom, closed the door and lay face down on the floor with my arms spread wide. The coarse carpet fibers pressed into my forehead and the faint smell of dusty shoes filled my nostrils. My emotions were so raw I could hardly formulate words to pray. The room was quiet and warm as rain drummed on the roof. I was too tense to let the tears flow. For the first few minutes, all I could do was breathe deeply. With each exhale I tried to release all of the negative things I was feeling. Bitterness. Anger. Confusion. Mistrust. With each inhale a different word would come to mind. Peace. Wisdom. Clarity. Direction. Eventually more words came and with my face to the floor, I wrestled silently with God in a one-sided conversation.

Why did you say ‘yes’ to the remodel and then allow this roadblock? Should we keep moving forward, or are you telling us to stop? Why did you let me get excited if this whole thing is going to fall apart like all the other times? What are we supposed to be learning from this?

Despite the physical discomfort, I remained face down in total surrender. Slowly I began to remember God’s faithfulness to us over the years. He usually didn’t do things the way we dictated, and they always ended up turning out better than we could have imagined. I thought of job searches, strained relationships, and challenging moments serving at church. God came through for us every single time. Fragments of different verses that had strengthened us through the hard times in the past came to mind.

I will never leave you or forsake you… I know the plans I have for you…You will find me when you seek me with all your heart…I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living…Be still and know that I am God.

As the promises flooded my mind, God gently pried open my tight fists of control and I held my hands palms up. I was ready to receive whatever the Lord wanted to give and trusted that He still had a plan. I knew there was a purpose for this setback, something we needed to work through before we could come out the other side. I got up from the floor and reached for my journal in the bedside table. Writing prayers had always been a way for me to connect with God.

God, I pray you would help us to trust in you even when things seem to make no sense. Please help us not to fret and to trust that you will make a way. I look forward with anticipation to how you will sort out this frustrating situation. God, please help us to conduct ourselves and treat others in a way that honors you through this process. Please give us wisdom, creativity and tenacity. I trust you even though I can’t see the way forward through this. God, please help us to keep a healthy perspective and to keep our eyes on you.

As I finished writing in my journal, inexplicable peace washed over me. I had no idea how this situation was going to work out, but I trusted that it would. God already knew the outcome and I could thank Him for that.

I emerged from the bedroom and found my husband sitting in our home office with his legs propped up on the desk and leaning back in his chair. His opened Bible rested on his lap. It was a relief to see that even though we retreated from each other, we’d both pursued God for wisdom and answers.  (From Our Mess to God’s Best, Marybeth McCullum)

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God knew our struggles with the remodel and waited patiently until we were desperate enough to wrestle through our frustrations with Him. We had no idea He also was teaching us to rely on Him in preparation for bigger challenges yet to unfold. Our growing dependence on Him was vital for giving us the strength we would need.

Intimacy with the Lord comes through authentic connection with Him. Once we’ve dropped our facades and started being honest in prayer, our relationships with Him grow deeper. The Psalms are filled with David and other writers grappling with their frustrations in the presence of God. One of my favorite invitations to be honest before God is Psalm 62:8: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (NIV) Our honest laments are the first step toward letting Him change our perspectives.

Through my wilderness experience with our disastrous remodel, I stopped asking God, “Why?” and started asking: “What do You want me to learn? How are You revealing Yourself to me?” When I relinquished my illusion of control and surrendered my sense of entitlement, God enabled me to find deeper intimacy with Him than I’d ever had before.

I pray you’ll find the same thing to be true in your wilderness. Instead of just seeking answers or solutions, seek greater intimacy with Him. Regardless of how your circumstances unfold, you won’t be disappointed.

Whenever I hear Phillip Phillips’ song “Home” I think of my crazy home remodel and imagine God singing the lyrics of the song to my family.   I hope it encourages you in your wilderness journey too.

Shirer, Priscilla; One in a Million– Journey to Your Promised Land; Lifeway Press; 2010 & 2014

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at marybethmccullum.com.

One thought on “Finding Intimacy with God in the Wilderness

  1. Your picture says it all. Sometimes when I am out in public & can’t surrender that way (without people thinking I am insane, anyway) I imagine my face pressing against the carpet fibers, surrendering. As much as we resist it, as you wisely point out, it is a good place to be.

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