What do great and godly leaders in the Bible have in common? You can probably brainstorm of a number of commonalities: they obeyed God, bravery, faith, and perseverance. But think for a moment of another, often overlooked common trait of these great leaders. Many spent time in the wilderness, especially just before they began their difficult, God-appointed tasks.
Before Moses became the great deliverer and lawgiver, he spent 40 years in the Midianite wilderness as an itinerate shepherd. God used this time to prepare Moses for his immense task. From 1 Samuel 19 thru 31, David was on the lam, running for his life from King Saul. This future king had to hide in caves and deserts, and was only able to rejoin civilization when his pursuer died. Before anointing Elisha, his successor, Elijah spent time languishing in the wilderness while on the run from Ahab (1 Kings 19). Immediately before he began his ministry, Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness. In fact, Jesus made a habit of taking time to separate himself from the crowds (even the apostles) in order to be alone with his Father. Saul’s vision of Jesus happened on a wilderness road to Damascus; this led to his conversation and life of preaching.
The point is not that outdoorsmen are inherently godlier—Osama bin Laden spent a great deal of time in the wilderness too. There is no magic consecrating power in nature. My simple observation is that many godly leaders spent time in the wilderness before they began the task God entrusted them with. As they prepared to serve God in extremely difficult circumstances, they spent time alone, apart from distractions, in prayer and concentration.
We all need time in the wilderness. Again, the point is not the wilderness itself, but the alone time with minimal distraction and maximal prayer. Time in the wilderness could easily be a room in your house where there is no TV, radio, computer, tablet, iPod, or chirping cell phone. Time in the wilderness could be a personal day from work, not spent in mindless distraction or frantic errand running, but in thoughtful meditation on God. Time in the wilderness could be a daily walk full of prayers to God. Time in the wilderness could be a lunch break with a tuna sandwich and an open Bible.
Our Lord Jesus, the perfect example, “would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Lk 5:16). Time in the wilderness can reconnect us with our Father, renew our minds, ease worldly stress, and help us spiritually grow. When did you last spend time in the wilderness?