“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies… He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the children of Israel.” (Psalm 103:2-4,7, NKJV).
To understand God’s nature truly, we must often be led into a wilderness first. What do I mean when I speak of the wilderness? First of all, it is a place of dryness and incredible hardship, a place where familiar comforts are stripped away. More importantly, the wilderness is a place that brings us to a total dependence on God.
Not only will God bring us into a wilderness in order to put an end to wrong pursuits and human schemes, I believe he is also after something much deeper. At the core of it all, we will find God’s jealousy over his bride and his yearning for her return to him.
Jesus once cried over his own people, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Jesus referred to the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem as if they were one person, like a bride who had once been brought into a place of worthiness so that she might honor him. Yet somehow this bride had fallen drastically from her calling in the earth.
We can hear the underlying longing in the Lord’s cry, much like a broken-hearted bridegroom who comes home to discover that his bride has not been faithful. “How I wanted you as my bride! I wanted you as my very own. I wanted to draw you into the closeness of my heart so that the two of us would walk together as one.”
The Lord is well aware that something else has captivated the heart of his bride, and he is determined to get it back, even if this means that he must draw her into the wilderness. There, distractions fall away. There, we may finally understand God’s ways and his heart.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.