“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:2-3

The wilderness. Dry, empty, barren.

Those are words that could describe the state of my soul these days too: hungry, thirsty, unfulfilled, longing, aching, weary. I am not the first (nor the last) to walk in the Wilderness of the Lord. In fact, I stand in good company with many saints of old, even those all the way back before David was king, or Gideon tested his fleece. These are ancient times, these wilderness days of old.

They were not pretty times. Israel failed. Over and over again. 40 years of failure. Forgetting God’s love for them, turning to false gods who offered short-term pleasure and satiation. Complaining, and angry towards God who, you know, only fed them bread from the sky.

Looking back at them, it is easy to judge.

Until you have to walk a wilderness of your own.

I too have failed to trust in God; I have complained; my soul has been bitter. I have sought short-term pleasure and forgotten God’s love for me.

Oh but for His covenant love for me, and I would be forsaken. But He is a God of covenants — promises made to generations long ago; promises He keeps because He is God and He cannot tell a lie. He has covenanted His love for me, not because I keep His commandments, but because, in His great love and mercy, He chose me. “…even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4a). Picked me out of the crowd. Said, “This one is mine.” Put His name on me and my frail humanity. And He won’t fail where His name is born. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6).

And so He forgives; receives me in all my bitter state; and shelters me in His love.

He does not only comfort, however. He teaches; He molds; He shapes. Nothing is wasted in His grip.

And so, this is my wilderness. When my soul feels empty, He feeds it with His word. This is He who became “like those who are taught, that {He} might know how to sustain with a word him who is weary,” (Isaiah 50:4, referring to Christ, the “Servant”). This is He who says, “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of His Servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on His God,” (Isaiah 50:10). He knows the wilderness: He “let [Israel] hunger,” (Deuteronomy 8:3). This too is from Him.

So I am learning to live by every word that comes from His mouth. His word. His word alone is my soul’s sustenance, and when I do not feed myself with it, my bitterness increases, my hope fades, and my perspective shatters.

As I have been sitting with the end prophecies of Isaiah this week, this sustaining grace,  one thing has stood out to me in the midst of the hope-filled visions of the glory to come. These promises of hope are for those “who fear [Him] and obey the voice of His servant,” (Isaiah 50:10). In Isaiah 65, these great promises of the new heavens and the new earth, where “no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not fill out his day,” (Isaiah 65:20a), it is said that those who “forsake the LORD, who forget [His] holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, [He] will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because when [He] called, you did not answer; when [He] spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in [His] eyes and chose what [He} did not delight in,” (Isaiah 65:11-12).

He has covenanted His love for me, but if I were to forsake Him, if I were to turn from Him, if I ignored His call and only did what is evil in His sight continually, there is no longer hope for me.

This can feel like such a harsh word, but it strikes a good and right fear and reverence in my heart. That at the end of the day, no matter what I feel, He is God, and He cannot be wrong, and therefore, I will trust in Him, even when I “walk in darkness and have no light” (Isaiah 50:10)…at least no light of my own to walk by...I give Him my allegiance, and I follow Him, through this dark and dreary valley of the shadow of death, and I beg Him to keep His grip on me, no matter how much my faith and trust waver.

This is the warning of the promises of hope in Isaiah. Don’t miss His voice calling to you in your dark places; cling to His word and His promises, and follow His ways, and He will one day bring you too to that promised eternity of joy and life.