The Purpose of the Wilderness in the Lives of God’s People

If you are at a wilderness place in your life, you may find it to be more puzzle than purpose. You might be overwhelmed and confused. You might find yourself questioning God’s wisdom—or maybe even your own.

I want you to think for a moment about being in the center of God’s will. What does that mean?  What would it look like?  Would it be a time of happiness and fulfillment? Is there ever a time that the center of God’s will might be a place of discouragement and difficulty? What about the children of Israel? God called Moses to bring them out of Egypt and into the center of His will.  The center of His will for them would eventually be Canaan, but for a time, the center of God’s will was a great and terrible wilderness.

Has God’s will for you included a period of time in the wilderness? Time in the wilderness means facing wilderness struggles, and wilderness hardships, and wilderness questions.  It can be a place of problems, and at the same time, a place of purpose.  The wilderness is a puzzle from our perspective, but from God’s perspective, it is His perfect plan for our lives.  

If you are at a wilderness place in your life, you may find it to be more puzzle than purpose.  You might be overwhelmed and confused.   You might find yourself questioning God’s wisdom—or maybe even your own.  Did you get to that place by God’s guidance, or did you get there by misreading of God’s guidance?   

We have said enough about wilderness questions. What can we know for sure about the purpose of the wilderness in the lives of God’s people?

The Wilderness is a Place of Separation

God carried them into the wilderness so that they could be apart from the influences of Egypt.  The uncertainties of the wilderness create a need for God and a dependence upon God.  God lets you do without, so you can come to know Him as your provider. God lets you be lonely, so that you can come to know Him as your friend.  God lets you be frightened and worried, so that you can come to know Him as your peace. God lets you be weak, so that you can know His strength.

In the wilderness, God reveals Himself.  In the darkness of the wilderness, He is your light.  In the confusing maze of the wilderness, you learn to let Him be your guide. In the wilderness, He separates you from the influences of the world, as well as the things and people that you have learned to depend on, so that you will learn to depend on Him. God will be faithful to you in whatever wilderness you are facing, just as He was to the people He led out of Egypt. 

The Wilderness is a Place of Preparation.

Looking back on those years in the wilderness, this is what God said to His people as they came to the Promised Land.  5“I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot. 6“You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the LORD your God.  Deuteronomy 29:5-6

What has been your God appointed wilderness?  Are you there right now?  What do you suppose God is trying to teach you? Are you learning the lessons that God wants you to learn?

When God takes you to the wilderness, He withholds that which you have come to depend on other than Him.  Maybe you came to depend on your job to provide.  God removes the job for a time, so that you will learn to depend on Him.  Maybe you came to depend on your own strength or stamina.  Then God brings weakness into your life, so that you will learn that your strength is in Him.  You see it as deprivation.  God sees it as preparation.  

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. 4“Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5“Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. 6“Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.  Deuteronomy 8:2-6

The Wilderness is a Place of Revelation.

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and howI bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  Exodus 19:2-6

When the center of God’s will is the wilderness, what is God’s purpose? Did you see why God brought them to the wilderness? He brought them into the wilderness to bring them to Himself.Why do you suppose that God brings you to Himself?

I read again today about Jesus calling the disciples.  He called unto Him the twelve.  And why did He call them?  Did He call them to Him to give them an assignment? Yes?  But the preparation for that assignment came out of being with Him.  He called the twelve to Himself, that they might be with Him and that He might send them forth to preach. Mark 3:14

Part of the preparation for what God wants you to do will grow out of the revelation of Himself that He gives you.  For most of us, the only place we can be readied to receive that revelation is in some wilderness, where God separates us from what we have learned to lean on, in order that He can show us that we need to lean on Him alone.

Where are you right now? Do you find yourself in the midst of some God-Appointed wilderness struggling to know God’s will and God’s way?  Do you feel alone there?  Do you feel abandoned there?  I know how you feel.  I have been to the wilderness.  I have lived in the wilderness.  I felt alone. I felt discouraged.  But I came to understand that the wilderness was the place of God’s presence.

If you are in the wilderness, you might be angry at God.  You may have considered abandoning God.  In your discouragement, the wilderness can even become a place of sin.  Where is God then?  How will God respond to you when you have proved to yourself that you are not worthy of His love.

Sometimes God takes us to the wilderness not only to show us Himself—but to show us ourselves.  The truth about who we are and how we trust God surfaces in the wilderness.  There, we are proved to be worse sinners than we knew ourselves to be.  How does God respond then?

Consider this passage from Nehemiah. “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.  You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.  In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them. “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,  even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.  You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.  For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen. Nehemiah 9:13-21

Why do you suppose God takes you into the wilderness to show you yourself so that you can see what a sinner you are? God takes you to the wilderness and shows you what a sinner you are so that He can show you what a Savior He is! In spite of the rebellion of His people, He remained faithful.  He still gave them water for their thirst.  He still gave them their daily bread.  He still guided them on their journey.  He never left them.  

God will be faithful to you in whatever wilderness you are facing, just as He was to the people He led out of Egypt. “In the wilderness … you saw how the LORD God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place. Deuteronomy 1:31 

Do you suppose God might also be carrying you? I am sure you have asked God some of the same questions that I ask from time to time.  “God, am I a castaway?  Can you still use me?”  “Do you still want me?  Do you still love me?”

The very words I write were born in one of those moments in my life. I will never forget the day I was in my office working on this message. I was preparing it for me, because I keenly felt everything I have shared with you. I had allowed a deadline to pass that seemed to me to be critical to my future. I let it pass because I had no word from God. God was silent. As a result of His silence, I saw my future slip away. My despair grew deeper by the day. It reached a zenith on a Wednesday in December of 2006. I was preparing this message for my church, but I was really describing what was going on in my own life.

God must have been watching as I paced around in my office that day. I was a desperately discouraged man. As I typed away at this message on my computer, the phone rang. Within an hour of that phone call, all my questions were answered. My future seemed to be restored. I had been called by God to the assignment I thought I had missed.

When that day started, I was convinced I missed God completely.  I was lost in the wilderness.  I felt abandoned and forgotten, and I felt I deserved to be.  But that day, I met God in the wilderness, and it altered the direction of my life.  Six months later, I shared the same message with my church on a Sunday night. The next day, I would be stepping through the door God had opened. This is what I said in closing: “Tomorrow I set foot on the road that God called me to travel. It may not lead out of the wilderness—but I am convinced that it will lead me to Him.” That is, after all, the purpose of the wilderness in the lives of God’s people. He brings us into some great and terrible wilderness, so that He might bring us to Himself.


Author: Eddie Davidson

The passion of my heart is to learn the secret of living a surrendered life and to live that life before my family and a watching world. I desire to proclaim God’s Word with a dependence upon the Holy Spirit so that truth is revealed and Christ is exalted. I desire to lead in a way that fosters a passion in the hearts of others to be a people after God’s heart. My ambition is to live a life of obedient faith so that God may be pleased and glorified.

50 thoughts on “The Purpose of the Wilderness in the Lives of God’s People”

      1. Amen🙏.
        May God bless and increase you in grace.
        This message is so touching.

      2. It is our Lord who is so rich in mercy and grace Who deserves the praise. He waits for us in the wilderness that He might reveal Himself and His purposes for our lives. Thank you for reading!

  1. Thank you so much. . . . this description has really helped me. . . . to see wilderness as a formative place in which we can be closer to our Father God, and a place of preparation, which is an encouragement and reassurance. Thank you. May God Bless you always, Zora.

    1. All thanks goes to God who chooses our journey, nurturing us through times of hardship and difficulty. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 63:9. I will let you discover it for yourself. It is a beautiful picture of what God does for each of us who trust and follow Him. Thank you for reading and for your comment.

      1. David wrote: You O, LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3) Many years ago, when I was a young pastor, a dear woman about the age of my mom, would come to the pastor’s home, sensing I was discouraged. She would put her hand under my chin and say, “Eddie Davidson, you lift up that head and keep your eyes on Jesus.” I never read this verse without being reminded that she was just an instrument in the Lord’s hand. He was lifting my head, my heart, and my soul. I say that to remind you that it is HE, not me, that has lifted yours. Thank you for reading.

  2. Wow, now I know that even in my WILDERNESS GOD is still interested in making me be the personality HE has ordained for me to become. Sometimes my wonder goes Wilder when I feel I’m alone in the wilderness. Now I know that all the cries and the stumbling is reformative process. I can now enjoy the wilderness with knowing that HE is making me know HIM better than I did before. Glory Hallelujah!!! God increase you Sir, powerful piece.

    1. I love the wilderness stories in the Bible. God designs our lives to meet us in some wilderness so that He can reveal Himself to us. May He continue to reveal Himself and His purpose for your life. Thank you for your comment and thank you for reading.

    1. You thank the right person by thanking Him. May He continue to guide you, making His presence known in whatever wilderness you find yourself a wanderer.

    1. Life is a journey. It is fraught with many difficulties and discouragements However, the Lord knows the way that we take. He has a plan for our future just as He always had a plan for our past. May He continue to reveal himself to you as you continue to trust Him. Thank you for reading.

  3. I’m there now. It’s been long, painful, lonely years in this wilderness. I’ve lost my marriage, my family, my job, my home, my sister who died, my brother who died, my brother-in-law who died, when I lost my home I also lost living with my kids. I now am living in my mom’s house – a house that I promised myself I’d never come back to, and I am my mom’s only caregiver as she descends into dementia. So I lose her every day. I’m isolated, alone, estranged, and have panic attacks whenever I try to visualize my future. It’s just a black wall. I’m certainly in the wilderness, I don’t hear from God often and my prayers for restoration of my marriage and family, healing for my heart, healing of broken relationships, and there are so many, aren’t heard. Or at least not answered. And the one thing that put light and happiness and love into my life, my granddaughter who I used to babysit every day – that’s been taken away too. I am soul tired, heartbroken, alone, hurt and cannot figure out why I’m not allowed to have a normal life, a spouse who loves me, closeness with my daughter, and healing. It feels like God wants me to live and die alone. I lost everything and everyone I love. Is God going to watch me die in my wilderness???

    1. On the other side of that wilderness in the Bible was a Promised Land. I don’t know what God has for you on the other side of your wilderness. Not every prayer in the wilderness is answered. The long and difficult journey plays a part in God’s teaching process. Looking back on the wilderness, we see the discoveries made and the lessons learned. Be careful not to make judgments about life or God in the wilderness. That place of loneliness and helplessness for God’s people, was also the place of God’s presence. May God reveal Himself and His love for you. I recall that God once put Moses in a cleft of the rock. Moses wanted badly to see God’s face. Instead, Moses was covered with God’s hand and shrouded in darkness. I think the wilderness is like that. It is dark to us and frightening. Nevertheless, we are covered by His hand and guarded by His love. When God removed His hand, Moses saw God departing–just a fleeting glimpse of His glory. We never see God coming in the darkness of our wilderness. When we do recognize the nearness of God, it is when the darkness is past and we see evidence that God was with us all along, covering us with His hand. May it be so for you. Thank you for reading.

    2. No HE is not. I was in the same place to a certain extent, but I am now on the threshold of God bringing it all back together. My prayers are beginning to be answered. He is also going to bring you into a wonderful place and it will all begin to make sense. It was necessary. Yes, it looks hopeless for a long time, I am a witness, but it will come together for you. Just Hold on. Reading Revival Prophetic Wilderness website also helped me a lot. Best wishes.

  4. Thank you so much. I have found answers to most questions that I was asking myself most of the time. As a servant of God sometimes I would run out of answers for most of the time. I thank God for leading me to read this article. I surrender completely to Him knowing that He is right here with me, He knows what I am going through and His plans for me are to prosper me. And mostly to draw me to Himself. God bless you.

    1. God knows our wilderness. Somewhere in each person’s wilderness, God places a burning bush. What I mean by that is that He arranges to meet us just like He met Moses. So He deserves the thanks for any help you received. Thank you for your contact. May the Lord continue to reveal Himself in your journey.

  5. God is amazing. As I sought Him this morning, feeling completely alone and wondering if the outcast of many months had now become one of the unredeemable, in His great love and mercy He led me here. So I am not alone or abandoned. I will continue my journey to whatever end He devises. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Thank you for reading. May the Lord continue to guide you in your journey. Remember the experience of David in his discouragement when he said: If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.” Psalm 139:11-12

  6. Amen a great sermon! GOD bless you abundantly. I am in a wilderness and I came to know it today. Sometimes the problems and chaos of the world literally feels like we are lost and messed up, but it is a chaos to the world not for children of GOD. For us this is the wilderness where we learn,fall,cry,get hurt, shatter,feel lonely but above all the love of GOD covers us and proves that “His grace is sufficient for us, for his power is made perfect in weakness.”

    I was studying the book of MARK where I discovered that John the baptist and JESUS CHRIST, both of them were highly anointed and the spirit lead both of them into wilderness to teach many things. That struck me so hard to think what is wilderness, why is wilderness?

    Thanks a bunch Eddie for the beautiful passage about wilderness.

    1. Thank you so much for your response. But praise goes to the Lord for His guidance. What we learn is the result of His leading, which sometimes takes place in wilderness moments. I thank Him for meeting me in those times. I pray He will continue to reveal Himself to you in yours.

    1. All praise goes to the Lord, who is in fact leading us all through our personal journey. Just as He was waiting for Moses in the wilderness at the burning bush, He is waiting for us at the end os some lonely or empty moment. He knows where you are and where He is leading. Thank you for reading. But most of all, I thank Him for HIs guiding providence in all of our lives!

    2. WOW!!! Thank you for such a beautiful & insightful passage as I too have been in the wilderness for some time now, reading your passage have helped me to understand much more clearer the process & intentions of the wilderness, I will never look at the wilderness seasons the same again, Thank You Lord for loving me & thank you sir for your obedience, May God continue to bless you richly

      1. The location of the wilderness and the circumstances that lead us there are always different for each individual. However, the practical application of those things learned by those who have gone before us remain the same. God knows our wilderness. He waits for us until we come to some burning bush moment. Sounds like He met you in yours! All the glory goes to Him!

  7. Thank you so much for bringing an insight on the wilderness and it’s purposes. I was really assisted in understanding different circumstances that we come through in life and knowing that God all loving and always with us.

    1. The Lord is always faithful. He lovingly brings us to Himself. Sometimes that path is through some wilderness experience that brings us to the end of ourselves. His name be praised. Thank you for reading.

  8. What is meant in Rev.12:14 …but the woman was given two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness?
    I really enjoyed you work on personal wilderness.Thank you

    1. Thank you for reading. I think regardless of how you interpret the Woman in Revelation, the wilderness is a place of protection, provision, preparation, purging, and ultimately purpose.

  9. Thank you for allowing the LORD to speak through you to those of us in the wilderness. I am a minister of God’s Word, and for many years was blessed to travel around the world preaching and ministering in many churches. In 2006 I had to change my ministry due to health problems. Since I no longer could travel well, I questioned God about His direction for my life. In the next section of my wilderness, God is bringing opportunities to me here, in my wheelchair, and I still get the joy of leading a visitor to Jesus. I can also write some things that go places I can’t. It can be scary in the wilderness because it is not familiar. Thank you, Brother Eddie, for remindingi us that it also can be Good.

    1. The only burning bush in the entire Bible was in the wilderness. “When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord.” Acts 7:31 May you also hear His voice and experience His presence in those Divinely Appointed moments. Thank you again for being a light the Lord used in my life early in my journey!

  10. I found this article searching for help on what Ive been going through lately. It gives me comfort to know that God is with me & working in me. Ive noticed some of the feeling and thoughts that come when Im in the midst of any situation its not good! And then I come to myself and repent for those feelings. I’m like…” whoa did I really think that?” Do I feel that? God is this in my heart?” I see what is in my heart and I weep with shame… “Father Im so sorry, please forgive me” Its easy to say God your so good. God I love you…when everything is going our way. I tell my Heavenly Father everyday. I still love You, need You, want You and Im holding on and never letting You go!

    After reading this I think that my dream confirms I am in the wilderness season right now. I had a dream after I asked the Holy Spirit what was going on with me. This is my dream…. I moved into a house in the dry desert (nothing around just sand as far as I can see) and I remember I was crying because I didn’t want to live there. I also remember there was no front door so I was concerned that snakes could come in. But then a strong wind blew through the house that then felt like a fresh breeze. As I looked out the window I remember thinking how fresh it felt inside although it looked hot and dry outside. I think that dream is more of a confirmation that Im in my wilderness season.

  11. Is the wilderness experience different for everyone? Im reading some here and whoa they seem terrible comparison to mine. Makes me feel like a whining crybaby, Or maybe mine isnt wilderness? It feels like it though.

    1. The only way to know the purpose of some wilderness season in our lives is to stay connected to God through His word. That is where we learn how to navigate the wilderness by seeing how God worked in the lives of individuals in Scripture. Only God Himself can reveal His purpose. Remember, God uses the wilderness to separate us from all else so that we hear only from Him. Thank you for reading.

    1. Let me tell you a wonderful secret I found out some years ago from a dear Hispanic brother. One day, as I was a bit discouraged about not having a pastor myself (because I am one), he quoted the first verse of Psalm 23 in Spanish. It reads: Jehová es mi pastor! Of course, in English, it reads the Lord is my Shepherd. But since that time, I often remind myself that there is no better Pastor/Shepherd than the Lord Himself. He alone is equipped to guide us through our personal wilderness. Most pastors like me are weak and failing. He will never leave you or forsake you in your journey. Any blessing you received from reading is because He is the GOOD SHEPHERD… the GOOD PASTOR. There is only ONE! Thank you so much for reading!

  12. I came across this post while I was making a Google search on what it means to be in the wilderness. This passage reassures me that I’m not alone in the wilderness but that God is with me since He led me in it. God revealed to me a while back that I was in my wilderness season when He lead me to the verse in Hosea 2:14. I know that He is forming and moulding me for where He is leading me. And He has separated me from the rest of the world to eliminate the noise so that I can hear from Him clearly. It is in this season that I’ve come to learn about myself as I’m healing from past pain and trauma. Even though I know why He led me here, it can get lonely and frustrating at times. This passage serves as a reminder that He remains faithful. Thank you!

    1. I wonder if you read Hosea 2:15? The Valley of Achor held some awful memories for God’s people. You will find those memories in the seventh chapter of Joshua in the story of Achan and his sin. Achor means trouble. The wilderness is sometimes a valley of trouble. But God’s intention is to turn even the Valley of Achor into a door of hope. May He bring you to Hope in your wilderness!

  13. To God be the glory. I’m so delighted with this message. It’s as if it was my own story, questions and confusion. The Lord is awesome, mighty and glorious indeed. Thank you Jesus for speaking to me through your servant Davidson. May you oh Lord bless your servant Davidson abundantly Amen

    1. There are certainly Divine Appointments arranged on the calendar of our lives. God knows where we are and what we need, even when we don’t have a clue. May He continue to reveal Himself and His ways to you. The glory is all His. Blessings! Thank you for reading.

    1. The Lord is faithful to find us wherever we are in our time of need. Even when our wandering has taken us far from Him, He still pursues us until He finds us. Just this morning I read the last verse of Psalm 119: I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, He found you!

  14. I am so blessed to have read this. It has confirmed what I have learned in my own wilderness wanderings since January 5th 2020. When I got the call the my sister had passed away. Tragically from a fatal wound caused by our youngest brother who has battled mental illness with schizophrenia since 1996. God is faithful. He has revealed Himself in a way that was not possible outside of this wilderness. My heart aches for my family for my brother still awaiting a criminal trial. Yet we are not without hope. I forgave him instantly when I got the call. God had been preparing me for years for that night. I can go on and on… but I WILL GIVE GOD ALL THE GLORY AND ALL THE HONOR for His Love Never fails. OUR LIVES here on earth are temporary. I stand united with my brother and with my family because Jehova es MI PASTOR PSALM 23.

    from Acworth Georgia 1:19am 11-2-2023

    1. I have come to dearly love this passage of Scripture: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4) Affliction comes in many forms, sickness, sorrow, suffering, and each affliction is a great and terrible wilderness all its own. One other verse I will leave you with that is also dear to me. May God use it to give you help on your journey. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9) May He carry your family through all of yours! Thank you for reading.

  15. I have been sick with an upper respiratory infection for a month. Have been treated but can’t seem to get well enough to get back to my routine. I was watching Jonathan Cahn on the wilderness experience and I heard the LORD tell me that’s where I am. I am thanking HIM and praising HIM for what HE is showing and telling me. It has been both painful and enlightening. I went searching for the meaning of the wilderness and found your article. It is very helpful. Thank you for sharing such wisdom.

    1. Thank you for reading. God has a way of using some wilderness experience to bring us to Himself. Of course, that is not a week or a month in some bush where we live alone and try to survive. A personal wilderness, as you mentioned might be a season of sickness or a season of difficulty. During that season, we learn to depend on God and trust God. We learn to lean more on God’s wisdom than on our own. On the other side of that experience, we know ourselves better and we know God better. That season might be a week, o a month, or forty years! While there, we often pray that God will deliver us from the wilderness. However, God often uses the wilderness to deliver us from ourselves.

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