And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
The Bible clearly states that God will never tempt us to sin. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that God will put us to the test to see if we are going to be obedient to Him or continue being led by our own desires. The wandering in the wilderness was a consequence of Israel’s decision to follow the advice of the ten spies and the inclination of their own hearts rather than heeding the instruction of the LORD. Therefore, the wandering was designed to provoke humility, and the fear of God, as well as reliance upon Him exclusively. Summed up, the wilderness was the environment by which God and the people of Israel would see what was truly in their hearts.
It should be pointed out that, during this time, they lacked for nothing; every need was met. That is not to say they had everything they wanted. In fact, those are the very desires that often got them into trouble and, quite frankly, revealed their resistance to God’s purpose. The wilderness was certainly no picnic — to the contrary, it was disciplinary in nature — but it was not destructive; it was constructive. I say that in spite of the fact that, generally speaking, it was not in their heart to keep His commands. That was made evident when God said, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear me and always keep all my commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
There are some who say a crisis makes the person, however, I’m not convinced that is always the case. Rather, the crisis reveals the person meaning that, in adverse situations, you discover what a person is made of. Squeeze a grape and whatever is on the inside pops out. The same is true for people; in Israel’s case, the wilderness was used to squeeze them. And as with Israel, God will put you and me to the test to see what is on the inside and to know whether we will be obedient to Him or not.
Whether we like what we discover about ourselves or not, the experience is actually beneficial in that it will reveal what is lurking in the recesses of our heart. The benefit is only realized, however, when we decide to purge ourselves of what is not fruitful and conducive to His Will. So while no one enjoys the wilderness, it does serve a useful purpose if we are willing to humble ourselves before Him and trust Him with our lives.
Blessings and Shalom,