Purpose in the Wilderness

“Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king. . .”

11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.” (1 Samuel 16: 1, 11-13 NLT)

The first Book of Samuel recounts the story of God anointing His chosen king for the people of Israel. But, did you know that nearly 15 years passed from the time God anointed David as king to the day he actually ascended the throne? In the meantime, this chosen man of Almighty God navigated a roller coaster relationship with his predecessor, King Saul, that was anything but royal. He was banished by the king he selflessly served; he hid in the desert; he lived on the run; he was forced out of the nation he would later rule and he fought countless battles for the very king that despised him. I wonder how many times David felt hopeless. I know he panicked at times, which Psalm 7 illustrates.

I come to you for protection, O Lord my God.
Save me from my persecutors—rescue me!
If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion,
tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Despite the twists and turns of his assignment, David trusted that God would make a way, and the rest is history! Why God chose to make the journey so circuitous is debatable. I think one person hit the nail on the head, however, when he wrote: “He was tested, just like Joseph, so that God could convert him from a shepherd into a king.” In other words, there was purpose in David’s wilderness experience.

Jannelle Nevels, morning co-host on WCRF Radio in Cleveland, recently shared about her own wilderness experience at the Renew Women’s Conference at Canton Baptist Temple on September 18, 2021. More than just share her own wilderness testimony, though, Jannelle took the opportunity to encourage all of us to let God do His great work when we find ourselves in a season of waiting and wondering. Jannelle was born and raised in the Dominican Republic until her parents moved the entire family – a divinely orchestrated relocation in and of itself – to the United States when she was three years old. Securing an excellent education for their children was the dream that made her parents’ sacrifices worth it. And Jannelle did gain that great education, earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering that she hoped to one day utilize at NASA. But during those college years, Jannelle also received the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ. And, as many Christians have learned, when God becomes Lord of our lives, He often interrupts our man-made plans with His divine design.

That definitely was the case for Jannelle. Her dreams of becoming a part of NASA quickly took a back seat to raising her six children and providing them excellent educations, as well. But she and her husband were very intentional in their educational approach, choosing to home-school their children so that they could prepare them to live lives where their desires would be to serve and glorify God and offer their gifts and talents to build and edify God’s Kingdom. In order to raise their children in this way, though, Jannelle had to place her own gifts, talents and aspirations on hold – a choice her father neither appreciated nor approved. The result was a true wilderness experience for Jannelle. However, she didn’t get lost in that wilderness!

“Don’t waste your time in the wilderness!” Jannelle encouraged conference attenders. “God works in the wilderness! Keep your focus on Him!”

And that encouragement, Jannelle pointed out, comes straight from Scripture. Hosea 2:14 says “In the wilderness, God speaks gently.” Jannelle discovered four ways that He speaks:

  • He confirms His Presence and affirms that we are right where He wants us.
  • He comforts us in our laments.
  • He shows us something new about ourselves (our idols, etc.)
  • He teaches us that He is in control and shows us what we are hanging on to.

For Jannelle, she was holding on to approval from her father, and lamenting the fact that he didn’t understand what she was doing with her education. But, when her dad suffered a serious illness that forced her parents to move in with Jannelle, her father discovered a different perspective. The entire family joined Jannelle’s dad in his battle against his disease, and their constant contact gave him a front row seat to the Nevel Family. That new view gave her father a greater appreciation for his daughter. Moreover, Jannelle’s work as a homeschooling parent prepared her well for her current call at Moody Radio.

“It’s not my season.” That is the lesson Jannelle learned and repeated to herself in those years of waiting for her passions and aspirations to take flight. And she admonishes us to do the same when we know in our hearts what God wants to do with us, but not yet.

“The wait is extremely important,” Jannelle declares. But there is purpose in that wilderness. You need only look to her and King David for proof.

— Linda R. Maynard © September 2021

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