I read the Bible more attentively than ever before and learned to love God for who he is and not for what he could do for me. I knew that the Lord would never leave me and would always provide for my needs. People sometimes wander from faith, wondering if God even exists, but those whose faith is forged in the wilderness know that he is real. They have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
What’s the point of the wilderness anyway? I’ve asked that question numerous times when I’ve been lost in the desert, wondering if I’d ever find a way out. People told me that God was working, but since I didn’t know what he was doing, I secretly wondered if he was doing anything at all.
I didn’t choose the wilderness. No one does. It’s a dark place of loneliness, rejection and despair. But it also cultivates the most life-giving fruit because there God shapes and molds us, teaching us to trust him alone.
In Genesis 41 Joseph named his second son Ephraim, saying “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Joseph became fruitful in Egypt – the land where he was sold as a slave, where he was falsely accused, where he was imprisoned and seemingly forgotten. These were the ugliest, leanest years of Joseph’s life, yet they may paradoxically have been the most beautiful because they taught Joseph to trust God.
I understand the beauty of Ephraim myself. The most difficult places in my life have produced the greatest fruit. Lilias Trotter, a missionary to Algeria in the late 1800’s said this: “Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there he can bring your soul into blossom!”
God triumphs in our place of struggle. The hardest things in our lives become the basis of our ministry. Our faith is often forged in the desert. But we can’t produce fruit ourselves or bring our own souls into blossom – God produces good fruit from an outpouring of what’s inside of us.