It always shocks me who the Bible highlights as it’s heroes. The people and stories that are highlighted in the pages are the ones that most people would hide. Wandering is one of those things you might expect the Bible to cast a negative light on. However wandering in the bible is a common theme and one that is often used to bring about positive change. It’s not one that we typically associate with spiritual growth. But it often plays a pivotal role in spiritual development for many Biblical characters. The Bible is full of wandering people.
Wandering in the Bible
Many major stories and many major characters have a season of wandering. Sometimes this is a physical wandering. Sometimes it’s a spiritual wandering. Regardless, story after story is full of wandering.
- Abraham was called by God, then wanders for years waiting for God’s promises to come true.
- Similarly David was crowned king, then spent years wandering/hiding.
- Joseph had a long season of wandering, from being sold into slavery to prison.
- Moses wandered for many years before finding the burning bush. (and then led Israel to 40 years of wandering)
- Ruth lost her husband and spent several years wandering before she found Boaz.
- Job… Poor guy. He had an intense season of wandering through no fault of his own.
- Even Jesus wandered in the desert for 40 days.
- The disciples wandered around for the 3 days Jesus was “dead.”
- Maybe most famous of all the Nation of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Wandering is often a major component of stories in the Bible. God’s people often spend good chunks of their life wandering. It’s a common enough theme throughout scripture that it cannot be a coincidence. There’s a reason that this theme is repeated over and over in the Bible.
This should be good news for you and me. My guess is all of us have, or will, experience some kind of wandering in our lives. In those seasons we can relate to the characters in the Bible and we can also learn from them.
Here’s three things we can learn about wandering from the Bible.
Wandering Preceding Something Good
Almost all the characters spent a season wandering before something good happened. The Israelites wandered before entering the promise land. David wandered before taking the throne. Joseph wandered before becoming second in command over Egypt. Ruth wandered before she found Boaz. And the list goes on. Wandering often precedes something good.
This isn’t a universal truth. But it’s a common enough theme that we take note. God often uses our wandering to prepare us for what is next. It’s in the wandering seasons that our faith and trust in God is built and strengthened. Often times God uses our wandering and waiting so that we will be ready for what’s next.
Again this isn’t a universal truth. Not every wandering season is preparing us for something. But it is something we should consider when we are faced with a time of wandering. What is God preparing us for?
Wandering Builds (or rebuilds) Our Identity
This is specifically true for the Israelites and their wandering in the desert. Having spent generation after generation in captivity to the Egyptians they had lost their identity. They lived, acted, and thought like slaves. What they needed was a reset. They needed to be reminded of who they were and how they should live. That’s what their wandering did. It restored their identity as God’s people.
Interestingly enough this wandering season for them coincides with a probable dating for the Creation Story in Genesis. This isn’t a story telling of how the world came to be. It’s a story of Israel’s place in the world. It’s a story of identity, not of science. This story, along with their wandering, was what rebuilt their identity. More on that here: We’ve Missed the Point of the Creation Story
Sometimes God uses our wandering to remind us of who he is and who we are. It’s easy in the busyness of life to lose sight of our identity. Wandering offers a reset. A time to slow down and remember, or learn, who we are and whose we are.
Wandering Builds Trust
The only way to build trust is to have the opportunity to actively show it. The only way to know how strong your faith is is to test it. It’s really easy for me to say that I trust the surgeon’s hand to cut me open. It’s a whole other thing to actually go under and put my trust in the surgeon to not kill me. If we say we trust God that’s great. But if our actions never show it, do we really trust him?
We need to be careful here. Sometimes God can lead us to a season where we need to trust him. Much like Israel wandering in the desert. But God doesn’t cause all the calamities of life in order to build our faith. Many of the bad things in life are a result of a fallen creation. Think of the story of Ruth, Jospeh, or David. Their wandering wasn’t directly caused by God, but rather their sin or the sin of others. While God might not cause all the calamities, he uses those times to grow our faith.
When we find ourselves wandering we have the opportunity to test our faith and to let God grow our trust in him.
Your turn… What has God taught you in your wandering seasons?