Wandering through a Desert Place: Lessons from Joshua 1

As 2018 wraps up, I have to confess something. This has been a desert year for me. Sure, my social media is full of pictures of fun things I did and places I went, but behind the scenes, confusion about my purpose and God’s will for my life has consumed me. 
For the sake of authenticity, I will bare all because I think some of you can relate. 

Wandering in the Desert: Lessons from Joshua 1
I started out 2018 with big plans. Convinced God had called me to open a counseling center. I jumped through every hoop, spent money on marketing materials, built a website and quit my job. Then I waited. And waited. I had a few clients, but it never took off. I felt like I was wandering in the desert.

As I floundered, a friend offered me a job. I took it, hoping it would clear up my confusion. It sounded Heaven-sent. Flexible schedule, great coworkers, something that played to my strengths. And as much as I enjoy it, it doesn’t fill my cup the way I thought it would. I’m still wandering.

Over the past year, I have identified most with the Israelites and their 40-year journey. Now admittingly, the Israelites had it way worse. They were escaping hundreds of years of oppression and slavery; they fled across a sea and wandered for 40 years. I haven’t been escaping anything (beyond my own unrealistic sense of pride and identity); I didn’t walk across a parted sea and I’ve only been wandering for a year.

But it’s been an odd year. One where I have moments of joy, but then revert into a confused, unsure emotional state. I’ve always been sure of who I am, so it is difficult to be uncertain of my future, my skills, and God’s will for my life.

I finally sat down a few nights ago and started in Exodus. I started when the Israelites fled from Egypt and ended where Joshua crosses into the Promised Land. Although it happened thousands of years ago, human nature and our tendency to doubt when things are confusing parallels my own (and maybe your) emotions in our desert times.

There were so many parallels between the Israelites’ journey and struggles and my own (I can grumble with the best of them), but it wasn’t until Joshua 1 that it hit me.

The Promised Land is NOT the end of the journey. Just like the Israelites, we desire a Promised Land to end our desert seasons. We believe if we put enough into savings, get promoted to the top, have our children graduate high school successfully, we’ll reach contentment and our sense of wandering will end.

But as you read Joshua 1:13-14, even when God told Joshua to lead the new generation into the Promised Land, there were still challenges to face. There were other warring tribes who lived there and Joshua told the people: “Your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory.” (Joshua 1:14, NLT)

God would guide and direct them, but their need for faith in God’s provision and protection wouldn’t end once they crossed the Jordan. I wonder if that shocked the Israelites. “Why did God bring us here just to stick us in another difficult situation? I thought the Promised Land would be calm.”

I can relate to their surprise. I have spent most of my adult life telling myself that “If I ____________________, I will feel fulfilled.” If I have enough money, if I’m debt-free, if I get a college degree, if I help enough people, if I have a larger house, if my kids are happy, I will feel stable. Secure. Content. I’m always waiting to cross that invisible finish line, where I cross into the Promised Land and life is easy. And when I don't cross it, I feel lost or confused.

I’m sure the Israelites felt the same way. They had been waiting 40 years to enter the Promised Land. Did they fall into the trap of “if we can just get into the Promised Land, we’ll feel stable and fulfilled”? What a surprise to realize the Promised Land would be full of trials. That’s God plan for our lives doesn’t equal “easy.” There is no simple endpoint.

Reading the Bible’s account of the Israelites entering the Promised Land forced me to let go of my unrealistic expectations about that invisible finish line and appreciate that wandering forces us to depend on Him. 

When we have everything, when we feel 100% settled and secure, we focus on ourselves.

When we have enough money in the bank, we don’t appreciate an unexpected check in the mail.

When our health is good, we take a clean bill of health for granted.

And the more we depend on ourselves and others to make us feel satisfied, our disappointment and dissatisfaction grows.

We start a dream job, then end up disappointed when we don’t like our new boss.

We view our parenting as successful when our kids graduate high school, only to watch them struggle in college.

It isn’t until we view every relationship and situation as a process and a continuous journey that we find peace. We realize that God is the only constant in this world. Not our external life circumstances. Bodies age, loved ones die, jobs fade, relationships end.

Only God is eternal. The only true finish line, the actual crossing into the Promised Land is at the end of our lives when we go to Heaven. So in the interim, celebrate the victories, but don’t base your contentment on an unachievable threshold. You will end up focus on the wrong thing.

So instead of focusing on my failures, I commit to viewing them as minor hiccups on the larger path God has for my life. If you feel you are wandering, if 2018 was a hard year for you, I would encourage you to sit down and fill out the blanks on this statement:

I often tell myself that if I do/have/achieve ________________________________________, I will feel better about my life.


I have been convinced that I would feel content/fulfilled/awesome if _________________________________ happened, and when it didn‘t, I felt _____________________.

If you can complete that statement, I would challenge you to adjust your thoughts and expectations. I had to examine my year and remember that a counseling center was not my Promised Land where everything would be easy and perfect. Instead, it has been one part of a journey that draws me closer to Him.

I’m still wandering these days, but as 2019 comes up quickly, I find myself more focused on finding God, not the Promised Land. And if I have to spend 39 more years wandering, but proclaiming God’s goodness and grace, then I am okay with that too.


  1. I feel you girl! My husband and I seem to have had the same experience this year as well. It's been what has seemed to be a desert but we have depended on the Lord more than ever this year. He has sent unexpected checks in the mail just when we needed it, he has had people help us out without expecting anything in return, He has guided us on His path by taking some things away that we once thought were so important. He Has truly been our manna from heaven during this time and for that I am thankful!

    1. Its so neat to look back and see how well He provides for us in those hard times! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yes, I can relate. It's only when we realize that the journey IS the destination that we begin to accept God's plan for our lives. Merry Christmas to you and thank you for sharing this very personal story!

  3. Beautiful! I love “I find myself more focused on finding God, not the Promised Land.” I have to constantly remind myself its a journey and am amazed at how quickly and often I forget when circumstances don’t match what I thought God was telling me. Thanks for this encouragement!

  4. This is such an important perspective! You’re not alone in always looking to the next thing for fulfillment. I’ve been guilty of it myself. Thank you for the reminder!

  5. I am grateful for the blog post. Much thanks again. Appliance Pros of Kitchener