The wilderness can be a wretched place. When the pain from an illness never ceases, when the struggle to make ends meet never ends, when the break we expect never comes, we can become depressed and discouraged. What makes everything worse is when we feel abandoned, especially by God.
Jesus understood this. As he hung on the cross, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”, which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). How terrible it must have felt for the Son of God to feel so abandoned by his father. But then someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink (Mark 15:36). There was consolation—comfort—provided in the darkest moment.
Everyone goes into the wilderness. Those who love God dearly—and vice versa—seem to frequent them often. Look at Elijah. Or Moses. Or Jonah. Or Isaiah. They were all in wildernesses, quite literally. John the Baptist spent most of his adult life in one. But even in the harshest of times, there are always consolations—tiny drops of comfort that serve as messages from God.
When Elijah fled into the desert, afraid that Jezebel would kill him, he begged God to take his life. But God sent an angel with food and water (see 1 Kings 19:1-9). When Jonah went out of the city of Nineveh after the people had repented, he too told God to take away his life. But God made a leafy plant grow over Jonah to give shade for his head and ease his discomfort (see Jonah 4:1-11).
Likewise, if we look at our lives, we would see that even though it may appear as though God has abandoned us, he has always sent such consolations our way. Someone, perhaps a total stranger, will suddenly reach out to us with an act of generosity or kindness. Or we will experience a sudden stroke of good “luck.” Or we will receive a message of hope and encouragement out of nowhere, perhaps like these reflections. Every day I have a few people tell me that the message they received that morning was just for them! This is God letting us know that he is still with us, that he hasn’t abandoned us.
So, look for these consolations in your wilderness, dear friend, because sometimes we can miss them in our pain, grief, anger, or bitterness. And, then, like Paul, let us declare: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation (2 Corinthians 1:3).