In our new sermon series, we will learn from the stories of biblical characters who found themselves in the wilderness. In biblical times and today, spending time in the wilderness is often used as a metaphor for a season in a person’s life when he or she feels forlorn, forgotten, or forsaken. For us, a wilderness experience might be a period of grief following a substantial loss in one’s life such as the loss a job, or the break-up of an intimate relationship or the death of a dear loved one. It also might be an extended time of depression or other emotional struggles. In addition, a wilderness experience can be a period of spiritual dryness when one does not feel the presence of God nearby. Significant men and women of the Christian tradition, such as St. John of the Cross, Mother Teresa, Henri Nouwen, and Parker Palmer have experienced this “dark night of the soul.”

During such times in our walks of faith, it is hard to remember that God still loves and cares about us and that God truly is as close to us as our breath. It is hard to remember that the One who created us, and the One to whom we belong is always present. Yet, many people find that after they move though a wilderness period they feel even closer to God. Their lives feel richer and deeper and they have more gratitude, clarity and understanding of their purposes than before that time.

Meditating on scripture is a great way to continue to pray through a time like this when words don’t come easy and you just don’t know what to say to God. A couple verses of a Psalm or a short passage from the Gospels are a great place to start.

Find a quiet place, get in a comfortable, relaxed position and take several deep breaths with your eyes closed. Open your heart to God’s presence, even if you don’t feel it. Read your verse silently or out loud several times, slowly. Let’s practice with Matthew 28.20:

“…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Close your eyes and continue to repeat your passage silently, picturing Jesus speaking these words directly to you. Allow a prayer to form in your mind and offer it to God, or simply sit in silence of the moment. When you feel like your time is complete offer a prayer of gratitude to God, such as, “Thank you God for revealing your goodness to me through the words of scripture and thank you for loving me always. Draw close to me during this difficult time. Amen.” If you choose, take a moment to journal after your experience.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer