By: Leah Beth Grubb
Evergreen trees, the Rocky mountains, starry nights – these are just a few of my favorite things. I’m a wilderness gal, through and through. At least that’s what I’ve always thought… This summer I stepped into a vastly different wilderness than the one I’m used to. The wilderness awaiting in Asia was unlike any I had ever experienced.
In prep for my Asian adventure, I filled my hiking pack with cliff bars, bug repellant and dry fit clothes. I also asked the the Lord for a ‘summer verse.’ I was hoping for an encouraging piece of scripture to lean on. Something along the lines of “I can do all things through Christ” or “You will soar on wings like eagles.” However, the scripture I felt whispered across my heart was Deuteronomy 8:2.
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. (Deut. 8:2)
This verse is less of an encouragement and more of a forewarning. The wilderness referenced isn’t the Rocky Mountains that I love to wander, but rather the land the Israelites hated to wander. After reading this verse, I had a knowing in my heart. A knowing that my summer in SEAsia was going to be incredible. Incredibly hard and incredibly difficult.
As the summer went on and I tread deeper into the wilderness, I clung to this verse like a lifeline. Deuteronomy 8:2 came true right before my eyes. The Lord did indeed lead me through Asia, He did humble me and He certainly tested my heart. He even watched to see if I would follow His commands in simple obedience.
I learned a lot from bugs this summer. Yep, you read that right. The Lord led me to Asia and used insects to change my heart. Actually, I prefer to call them “tiny animals” as natives did.
The first “tiny animal” came in the form of a stomach bug. This ferocious beast hit us hard just a week into the wilderness. A stomach bug might not seem like a big deal. However when you don’t have access to your mom or a Western toilet, it becomes a lot bigger deal.
I was never more homesick than those days of sickness. I longed for my mom and dad to take care of me, I longed for my own bed and I definitely longed for some porcelain. These longings couldn’t be fulfilled the way I wanted, but guess who was there through it all? Yep, the Lord my God was still faithfully leading me all the way through the wilderness(Deut. 8:2).
The other part of the verse, the part about being humbled came true, too. As I leaned over a stranger’s squatty potty, I had only one thought: “Wow, okay, talk about humbling.” Humility reached another level when my new friend N peeked in, saw me puking up every last piece of rice and immediately came over to me. I weighed twice as much as N, and yet she somehow held me up over the floor. We didn’t speak the same language. You don’t have to share a language to speak love.
In that moment, I was reminded of Deut 8:2 and how the Lord would “humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart.” Through the humbling and testing of a stomach bug, a lot was revealed about my heart. I saw where pride had wormed it’s way in.
The pride worm is a ferocious beast. He finds holes in your heart and makes a den where he doesn’t belong.
How does one exterminate a pride worm? A big ole dose of humility. There is no room in the heart for both humbleness and pridefulness.
My pride couldn’t handle the knowledge that I couldn’t handle a stomach bug. With that realization and in my weakness, I prayed prayers like this one:
“Today, I am oh-so tired, weary but feeling better. Will you strengthen me, sweet Lord? Fill me up that I might pour out again? I know that You are here and providing even as I am humbled. I know that you will fulfill your promises” (journal excerpt 6/23/18).
The Lord answered these prayers as I prayed them. Over the next two days, the Lord strengthened me enough to stand before two full congregations and share the Truth!
Towards the end of the summer, a very different bug came biting. I was sleeping on my mat when I felt something clench onto my thumb. There was no need for roosters that morning… My yelps of pain woke the whole house! What I thought was a crab (y’all know I can’t see without my contacts), turned out to be a giant, poisonous centipede.
My thumb and hand immediately began throbbing and swelling and I could feel the poison woking its way up my arm. My teammates surrounded and prayed for me as I weeped. Amazing enough, the rash and swelling began to recede as we prayed! We watched the rash disappear from my arm and the pain contained to my thumb. I’ve seen the Lord answer prayer before, but never that quickly.
Later, someone joked about the centipede bite having to be the low point of my summer. I almost agreed until I realized it wasn’t. The stomach bug was the low point because I was just learning what it meant to rely on the Lord. Relying on Him had become more of a habit by the time I got to the centipede bite. My mind was filled with memory verses instead of home longings. I had watched the Lord provide all summer and had no doubt that He would take care of a poisonous centipede bite, too.
So you see, Being humbled and tested in the wilderness is not easy. Like the Israelites, I was not always faithful to my faithful God. There were times that I leaned on His strength but also times that I tried to make my own way. The Lord didn’t ask for perfection, though.
He asks me to remember how He led the whole way.
I must never forget how He humbled and led me. Deuteronomy 8:2 was my summer verse, but it’s all the more applicable now. Moses is reminding the Israelites to carry their Wilderness lessons into the Land of Plenty. He fears that his people will be prideful and return to old ways (aka a golden calf).
I’ve been back in America about a month now. As my time in the wilderness grows distant, I realize Moses’ fear is a legitimate one, y’all. I catch myself falling back to old ways – praying less and thinking more. Thinking thoughts that are less Kingdom centered and more self-centered. This freedom land may appear beautiful, but it too is riddled with ‘tiny animals.’
Why is relying on the Lord is so much more natural in the Wilderness than in the Promise Land?!?
I walked out of the Wilderness and into a sweet season of life. A season surrounded by the people I love best and in place that is most familiar. The Lord gave me a new sense of purpose this summer, an evolving understanding of who He is and who I was created to be.
I must take Moses’ warning to heart. I will take Moses’ warning to heart.
I will remember how the Lord my God led me all the way in the wilderness these 52 days, to humble and test me in order to know what was in my heart, whether or not I would keep His commands.
Lord, may my days in the wilderness and land of plenty alike be all for thy glory. May I remember your faithfulness always. You have opened my eyes to both pride and sin in my life this summer. Please continue to mold me in your image. In Jesus’ name, Amen. (prayer written in the margins of my Bible next to Deut 8:2)
xx, Leah Beth Grubb