Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite authors. She feels so keenly, thinks so deeply, and expresses herself so well. I thought I had read all of her books but Coie introduced me to Keep a Quiet Heart. When I went to get it on Amazon, I found a few others I had never heard of, including The Path of Loneliness: Finding your way through the wilderness to God.
I am somewhat embarrassed to mention that I bought a book with this title because loneliness conjures up notions of hopelessness, lassitude, and desperate unbelief. Talking about loneliness is also a vulnerable endeavor. There isn’t any shame in loneliness, though. People can be lonely at different times of their lives for myriad reasons.
While I have profited from Elliot’s perspective on loneliness, it was really the subtitle of her book that compelled me to read it: “Finding your way through the wilderness to God.” Any loneliness aside, I think most believers can relate to life feeling like a wilderness sometimes. There’s no clear route for where we’re going, no clear path from where we’ve come, and no clear landmarks to punctuate our journey.
There was a definite wilderness sojourning earlier this year for me. While feeling quite lost a friend of mine encouraged me to keep reading the Bible and praying, reminding me that the hardest thing to continue to do would provide direction and guidance. She was right. Really, really right.
Any wilderness wandering is fraught with fighting, fighting against sin and temptation. This fight adds drudgery to what sometimes feels like endless roving. But the weary heart and the lonely heart must be encouraged. This is not the final destination. This world, this life, this wilderness is not our all. There is the hope of heaven.
Spurgeon compels us in Morning and Evening for October 2 to think often of heaven. He writes: “Here we are weary and toilworn, but yonder is the land of rest where the sweat of labor will no more moisten the worker’s brow, and fatigue will be forever banished…The man who has this hope in him goes about his work with vigor, for the joy of the Lord is his strength. He fights against temptation with ardor, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary.”
Although we fight through the wilderness, we fight because we hope in what is to come. What seems so bleak here will not matter when we are face-to-face with Jesus. The Lord never left the Israelites in the wilderness. He provided for them for forty years and he led them by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Nahum 1:3 says the clouds are the dust of the Lord’s feet. As it was for the Israelites, so it is for us. The Lord is providing and the Lord is leading. There might be a wilderness or two, but there is always the hope of the Promised Land. Lead on, O King Eternal.