I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience where you’ve moved to a new house. As you stand there surrounded by boxes and mess in your new place, you’re very much aware that you have left behind the old home and yet your new house doesn’t quite feel like home yet. The old has gone, but the new doesn’t feel like it’s landed. Perhaps you’re wondering – what have we done? Have we just made a terrible mistake?

Ever experienced that?
These kinds of moments are what William Bridges calls in his book, Managing Transitions, being stuck in ‘the Neutral Zone’.

Author Jeff Manlon calls it ‘the Land Between’.

Brene Brown in her book Rising Strong describes it as ‘the middle space’ when she writes “… whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re “in the dark”—the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.”

For biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, David, or Esther it was often experienced as the wilderness, the desert place, the cave, or even a Palace.

This is the place where it feels like there is ‘nothing to hold on to’. The place of great uncertainty and anxiety.

Many of us may be feeling we are living in this place right now. Perhaps because of Covid19, or work changes, or relationship changes, or finance changes, or health struggles.

So what do you do when you feel you’re trapped in a wilderness experience?

Let me offer four thoughts that have helped me a great deal in my wilderness moments.

1) Be real with God, lean into God

The 150 songs, Psalms, that you find in the middle of the Bible are littered with people being real with God about their pain and struggle. How long God? Where are you God? Why God? It seems that God is big enough to handle our deepest angst, and it does us good to own and express our pain – to Him, and others.

2) Remember God is with you and always at work

The story of Joseph with his famous multi-coloured coat is an incredible example of this truth. Joseph is sold out by his brothers, becomes a slave, imprisoned on a false rape charge, and locked down for many years. Yet despite spending years in the land of suffering and uncertainty, Joseph lives with the conviction that God is always with him and working on his behalf – even when Heaven seemed silent. In my own painful valley moments, I’ve discovered that God is able to do some of his best work, refining our character, growing our empathy, and developing greater dependence on him. The Lord says in Isaiah 48:10, “I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.” It’s not that God wants us to suffer, but he is able to work through it for our good. Caterpillars become butterflies at the end of the struggle.

3) Look for the miracles

If we’re convinced that God isn’t at work. If we’ve given up on miracles and lost all hope. Then we’ll find what we’re looking for – the evidence that God is not present. We always find what we’re looking for. But if you dare to believe that God is with you, and is at work on your behalf, then you can start to see things with different eyes. Just like Joseph did. Miracles in slavery, miracles in prison, miracles all around him – because he had eyes to see them. I know this is difficult. To see things differently. But sometimes we’re so focused on what God isn’t doing, that we miss what He is doing.

4) Keep going

In Exodus 14 we’re told the famous story where the Israelites are caught between the Red Sea in front of them and Pharoah’s army behind them. They’re stuck in a desperate situation and so they cry out in rage to God. How could God let this happen? God’s reply to them is startling. He tells them not to stop. He tells them to keep walking. Keep believing. Keep expecting. The problem will part in front of them. The wall is going to fall. The impossible situation is going to turn around. Don’t believe the lie that your present reality is your future destiny – keep going!

Life is very hard at times. But God is very good all the time. And though it might not seem like it right now, He is at work on your behalf. He just can’t help himself. He’s unwilling to abandon you. His love for you is fierce and faithful. And when you look back on this difficult time one day, maybe – just maybe – you’ll see the fingerprints of Heaven all over it.

I pray so.

God keep you in His strength and peace.