SPIRITUAL WILDERNESS/SPIRITUAL EMPTINESS
By: Rev. Dr. H. M. Songate
“And the water in the skin was used up..” Gen. 21:15
I would like to share few thoughts on “Spiritual Wilderness or Spiritual Emptiness” taken from the above passage. This incidence is one of the after effects of Abram and Sarai being unable to wait upon the covenant and promise of God. The covenant of God and Abram was recorded in Gen, 17. As a result to this covenant, God had changed Abram’s name to Abraham-father of many nations. And Sarai’s name was changed into Sarah- meaning ancestress of the promised nations and kings. However, Abram and Sarai must have lost their patience and could no longer wait upon the Lord. They had laid out their own beautiful and workable plan that Hagar should bear them a son. As a result of this plan Ishmael was born. Initially everything seemed to be okay. Abram was happy and so was Sarai. But then God in His own appointed time fulfilled His promised son and Isaac was born. And family contention started building up in a small happy family. And finally, it was unbearable. To make the story short, God had to intervene and told Abram, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of the bondwoman. Whatever, Sarah had said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet, I will make a nation of your son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed”. (Gen.21:12-13). This must have been one of the saddest moments of Abraham’s journey. The next early morning he took bread and a skin of water and sent them away! How painful it must have been for Abraham. Hagar and the lad (Ishmael) wondered in the wilderness of Beersheba, perhaps, waiting to die. (V15) said, “The water in the skin was used up…”. Just like this story, Sin will always cause our spiritual store dry up and used up somewhere sometime in our life.
Recharge life: Our present life is ‘recharge life’. Nothing works unless recharged repeatedly and on time. Cars and bikes need to be filled with fuel repeatedly unless they can’t run. Airplanes, ships and helicopters should be filled with fuel on time to make it fly. Batteries, laptops, mobile phones and many electronics goods cannot be used unless recharge on time. Even car designs became outdated soon unless improved. Cloths and dresses also worn out and they had to be changed with new ones. Make ups won’t last long too! We need to eat and drink in order to gain our physical strength and to keep us fit. But, oddly enough, our spiritual life is seldom refilled! Even when the water in the skin is gone long ago, we move on and on. We struggle within ourselves and attempt to move on. Our Spiritual bankruptcy is often seen by others before we realized ourselves! Spiritual wilderness is caused by wrong action as in the case of Abraham, many spiritual wildernesses are caused by wrong actions. And many are caused by inaction too! We often fail to realize our spiritual emptiness. Have you fed your spiritual life well today? How often do we feed our spiritual thirst and hunger? How often have you ‘rest awhile’ and ‘retreated’ to spend time with Him alone? Seeking His fresh anointing and second touch? Do you recharge your spiritual battery today? We need to recharge our spiritual battery often as possible to be useable and avoid spiritual wilderness.
Time to feed or sink!: Even great servants of God failed as they failed to refill their spiritual battery. Their actions and inactions brought them down and sunk them very deep sometimes. We have seen Abraham’s wrong action and its impact in history. We are suffering the impacts even today! Samson had his share of spiritual wilderness and suffered in the hands of his enemies. That was not God’s plan, it was his own creation, his own desire, his lust and wrong action that let him to his infamous life. David was no different. While his army was battling with the enemies, he was leisurely walking on his rooftop. His time alone was not spent wisely. The water in his water skin must have been used up. He peeked at his neighbour’s wife, planned and assassinated her husband and had gone in his own way. His action minus God’s involvement had caused misery to his life, to his family and to his nation. Spiritual thirst cannot be substituted by anything else, except ‘spiritual food’ itself. Solomon was no exception. His prayer was one of the best prayers recorded in the bible. That was the time he communicates with God with abundance in his water skin. “Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties”(1Kings 3:7). With this type of humble prayer God was pleased so much so that He asked him anything he desired. He asked right and was given, wealth, fame and wisdom as a bonus. He was not pull down by what God had given him. Never will God’s gifts destroy His people anywhere. But his foreign policy and taking of wives from every kingdom became a habit. Because of his wrong actions many temples had started sprang up in Israel. He must have forgotten his initial beautiful and humbled prayer. That is the effect of being in a spiritual wilderness. God wanted to lift him up so much but he decided to go on and move on with the life of spiritual emptiness and we all know the rest. Let us look briefly into the life of Elijah before I go in to another point. Elijah was great! He killed 400 baal priest singlehandedly because God hears his prayers. He humiliated the priests in front of all those spectators. He must have been loved, feared and respected. But there was a time in his life too, that ’The water in the skin was used up’! Forty days he had to run for his life. ‘What? Prophet Elijah run away in fear’, we must have thought. Yes, he did run 40 days non-stop! He didn’t run to God but run away from his enemy and also from God. He became extremely tired, stressed and finally ‘he was depressed’. He struggled so much without refilling his spiritual water bag. He was unable to bear it. Finally, he said, “it is enough Lord, take my life”! He wanted his life to end. Friends, we need to take care of our spiritual needs all the time. We travel, preach, teach, write and many times under great pressure to do well at the expense of what- our own expenses, our own life and our family life. We need time to rest, ponder and seek His face as often as possible. That’s what we all need. Work, work and no prayer can dry up our spiritual store and pray and pray and no action can make us dry too.
Nothing happened!: We often said, “I do pray but nothing works”, “I still spend quality personal time with God but nothing new happened”, “I have my regular reading time and fast but everything is still dull”. We struggle hard but nothing happened. Life seems to be okay and normal but we feel that the spirit didn’t talk to us and there still seem to be a strong sense of spiritual inadequacy. There is a thirst for fresh air, fresh thought, fresh zeal, fresh motivation and above all fresh anointing. I wanted to see and feel something which cannot be seen by eye, some relieve, something totally new, we said. Then, God said, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hands for I will make him a great nation”. Then, God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink” Gen.21:17-19. “God opened Hagar’s eyes and saw a well of water”(in the wilderness), which is unthinkable. But friends, like Hagar, God in His own time, will definitely open our eyes and see what human eyes cannot see. Then we will fill our water bottle with joy. Then our thirst will be quenched to take on our journey further with fresh strength and fresh anointing. Friends, have you filled your water skin today? Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”. (John 7:37-38) Come, let us go and drink and be filled with His Holy spirit! Amen.