Into the first week of working from home full-time and nurturing my body back to better health before I go back to the doctor for my recently diagnosed condition in two months’ time, I found myself back in a familiar heart space.

The kind that makes you wonder if your love for God will grow cold, and if you will be one of those who endure to the end.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13)

I hate the wilderness. I’ve told God this many times.

It’s that place you are flung out to when you hit one of life’s potholes and just can’t seem to find your way back on track. A barren place where your heart withers and joy doesn’t grow no matter where you look.

Of course, He’s been speaking to me about this great distaste, and over the years I’ve gathered that:

I know, it sounds like God trying to make me eat my vegetables.

But as usual, He’s not been wrong. I do see the fruit of the desert days, and in that same basket — crucial skills on how to do better the next round I’m back out there.

I also know this could be a good time to share whatever I have, in case someone needs it, now or one day. So, here goes.


Tip #1: Faith is an endurance activity.

If you always thought faith is a simple matter of keeping to the spiritual disciplines, the real terrains of life will challenge that.

The spiritual disciplines are the basics for the advanced training.

Have you tried reading the Bible with a hurting, angry, discouraged heart? Have you tried praying when you’ve lost something precious you’ll never get back? Worshipped when you’ve heard the worst news of your life?

Faith is hard, my friend. But like a muscle, it also grows when it is stretched beyond comfort.

Tip #2: Pray for the discouragement in your heart.

I’ll be honest, the darkness might not disappear within a day or two of pressing on.

Tears might still fill your eyes. The Word might still taste like cardboard. There will be so many thoughts and fears buzzing inside you like locusts God doesn’t even cross your mind.

This is where, like a lucid dream you’re desperately trying to wake up from, you need to turn to God in prayer with everything you’ve got.

It doesn’t have to be positive or eloquent, just be honest. Tell Him you know He sees your pain. Ask for help even if your brain is insisting He won’t do anything. You might not know it yet, but this is your lifeline.

Tip #3: Get the Word in, somehow.

Ever tried holding a plank or some other HIIT equivalent?

Holding onto faith in prolonged seasons of disappointment, grief, hopelessness, meaninglessness or the full works can be too heavy to carry when you have nothing left.

Your heart might be screaming to tap out forever, but against all natural inclinations, Truth is what will nurse it back to health and renewed strength.

We have to nourish the weakened soul with the best spiritual food you can find.

So whether it’s through reading or listening to Scripture or sermons or songs — you gotta eat something good to get better.

Tip #4: Push through the plateau.

There will be good stretches and days of poor progress.

For a while you were making your slow and steady way out of the shadows, but suddenly things are more slow than steady.

Maybe it was a trigger that sent you back to square one. Maybe you don’t know why you can’t move forward anymore.

Love yourself through every step of the way.

Here’s what a mentor has reminded me every time I find it impossible to start, try or believe again: Love yourself through every step of the way.

Don’t let guilt or shame or pain fuel your journey. Love yourself through the steps forward, steps backward and the spaces between steps.

Tip #5: Lean on the Beloved.

“Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved?” (Song of Songs 8:5)

As much as I hate the wilderness, it has been a favourite meeting place for God.

Not that He’s sadistic and forces me out here, but He clearly doesn’t see this place as I do.

For a while I might mourn the loss of things held dear, for Him, He waits until I am stilled and know that He is the only thing that will never leave me or pass away.

All other ground is sinking sand, yet I gladly find stability on anything I can easily see value in when the skies are clear.

The wilderness has been, again and again, the unlikely answer to my prayers for peace, for wisdom, for freedom — to know what love is.

Who love is.

  1. What might your “wilderness” be?
  2. Which of Joanne’s 5 tips might you need to apply in your wilderness journey?
  3. Do you know someone else who’s walking through a wilderness in their life? Reach out to them this week and send some encouragement their way.