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Surviving Your Wilderness - Tip#3 - Find Shelter

Someone stranded in a physical survival situation must immediately find or build a shelter. The first great danger is exposure to the desert’s harsh elements. It’s crucial to maintain your core body temperature in order to endure. Direct sunlight and extreme heat cause heatstroke. Rain and cold cause hypothermia. A good shelter provides the necessary shade or warmth to keep your body temperature as stable as possible.

This expert advice mirrors spiritual life well. Listen to one of God’s promises, borrowing language from Israel’s wilderness journey: “Over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:5-6). Those finding themselves in a spiritual desert must embrace this promise, immediately seeking God as the wilderness shelter that will protect them from harsh elements.

We may be tempted to equate “desert” with God’s absence. But nothing could be further from the truth. Barren lands lack many conveniences, but they never lack God’s presence! A child of God is never cut off from Him. On the contrary, God’s presence is our safe place in the desert more than ever. Remember, one of our key resources in the wilderness is the comfort of the Holy Spirit. God is always with us, but in the howling void of the wilderness, we can actually come to know His presence in new and greater dimensions.

This truth is an answer to Moses’ wilderness prayer centuries ago. “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). God assured him, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The one thing Israel did in fact have was the precious companionship of their unique, powerful, and loving God. They were not alone in the wilderness. God was with them, and God is with you – earnestly with you.

So the way a child of God finds or builds a shelter is by seeking God all the more diligently as a haven in the desert, and by establishing the habit of running to and remaining in Him. Use the spiritual desert as an excuse to discover God afresh as your “refuge and strength.” Practice taking sanctuary in His presence throughout your day through prayer and worship. It will protect you from the unforgiving, unrelenting elements of spiritual deserts.

Demonic forces wander about in these arid conditions, the “waterless places” of life (Matt. 12:43) They try to take advantage of those spending time in God’s testing grounds. But even in such intensified circumstances, you can remain hidden in Christ, shielded and safe within an impenetrable fortress made of walls a thousand miles thick. It is a still, enclosed garden amid the chaos outside. It will keep your spiritual “core body temperature” stable as if you were not really under such extreme conditions. “They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them” (Isaiah 49:10). How can this be? How can our most vulnerable time be our most protected and durable time? Because God “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91:1-10).

Think about this. When did God first promise He would abide with His people? When did He establish His presence with them? When did He give specific instructions for building His tabernacle in the middle of their camp? In the wilderness! That was the very time He inaugurated His personal, permanent presence with Israel. To this day Jews celebrate the “Feast of Booths,” a festival celebrating the season when they lived in tents in the wilderness, and God lived in a tent among them. The wilderness is not the place of God’s absence. It is the place where He establishes His presence in a fresh way.

Never is God more “with” His people than in the wilderness. Never is God more present to you than while you traverse spiritual deserts. People often testify that, during the most difficult times in their lives, God’s presence becomes more pronounced to their souls than usual. You will often hear them say things like, “I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.” In the midst of pain and suffering they come to know the presence of Jesus more intimately and experience Him more powerfully.

You can experience Him this way also. But you must make Him your shelter in the desert. No matter how discouraged you feel, rouse yourself to seek Him. Wrap yourself in His love and truth. Take time to conceal yourself in Him by spending time in His presence. Make His faithfulness your shield and shelter (Psalm 91:4). Know that you are hidden away deeply in a divine fortress that the harsh, demonic elements cannot penetrate. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me… you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies… surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:4-6).

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