Feeling stuck in the wilderness season and questioning when it ends. Here are seven lessons from Joshua that will help you move out of the wilderness season and into your promised land.
I fell in love with the Bible through the story of the Israelites. Of course, I fell in love with God through the gospels, but there was something so relatable to the Israelites story. A place of begging God to deal with life’s problems but failing to invite him into the process.
A place where they had faith enough to be saved, but not faith enough to live out the call and promise of God here on Earth. Which is a place many of us get stuck – the place of the wilderness. A longing for the promised land but stuck living out of the past.
Don’t get me wrong. The in-between is a hard place. But it’s a place we all move through, the place of sanctification—a time of growth that has to happen to help you move forward out of your past.
You may be chasing a new story, but this story is to remind you, you don’t need a new one. Just like the Israelite’s, God wants to use your past to be another story of deliverance. Not just out of the problem but into the promise.
Lessons from Joshua: Leave the wilderness season
The story of the Israelites moving from the wilderness into the promised land isn’t a short one. To fully understand the goodness of God in this story, you have to go back to the beginning.
It’s the same story that started from creation. The idea that sin pushed us into a state of bondage, making us slaves to our idols and living chained to our past pains.
BUT GOD, in all of his glory, desired to free us from that. To save us, making us a part of his story.
Unfortunately, like many of us, the Israelites had a hard time changing their narrative. They had difficulty freeing themselves from where they came from to move into where God was leading them—leaving them standing on the edge of freedom while questioning if the safest option was back in Egypt.
Back in slavery. A place a lot of us find ourselves questioning.
Living with the faith enough to be saved but not the faith enough to step into the future God promised you. All because the past and the pains have kept you stuck fearing them over fearing God – creating a Jordan-sized problem.
It’s tempting, just like the Israelites were tempted to run back to Egypt, but you have to keep moving forward. God did not create you to die in the wilderness. He has a promise for you. But you have to let God in to change the narrative of what you’ve been through, allowing you to step into the Jordan. Don’t turn back to your past. Move forward into your call.
Lessons from Joshua: Let God Write a Better Story
I find the story of the Jordan crossing fascinating. God asked them to move nearly identical to how they did when He delivered them from slavery. He had parted the Red Sea. Wouldn’t He do it again with the Jordan crossing?
Yet, they got stuck. And so do we.
We tend to get stuck in this in-between place – in the middle of salvation and living out our call.
As some commentaries put it, the first crossing of the Red Sea signifies salvation. The Red Sea crossing was the salvation of the Israelites from their enemies into freedom.
The Jordan crossing was different. It signified consummation. It was stepping into the final glory God created for them here on earth. The place of the promise.
The same place God begs for you to live. In the glory of His creations.
Not stuck in the middle ground, in the wilderness, forgetting God’s deliverance, and yet fearing a new enemy. God doesn’t want you stuck in the wilderness. He wants you to live in the glory of His call for your life.
Don’t stop at Your Jordan-sized problem.
But the only way to the promise is through the Jordan.
As the Israelites stood on the banks of the Jordan, they had to choose. Would they trust God more than they feared the future? More than they feared the Jordan-sized problem they were up against? Or would they move, knowing he had already delivered them and he would do it again.
We all have a Jordan-sized problem that keeps us stuck wandering in the wilderness. But we can’t stop at what we fear but trust that God is greater than anything we’ve gone through.
Don’t settle for wandering in the wilderness, but have faith that God will split the Jordan, just like He has done time and time before, to walk through your Jordan-sized problem on dry ground.
Here are seven lessons from Joshua we can learn from the Israelites moving out of their own wilderness season and into their promised land. The same place God is begging to deliver you. Will you move? Will you walk into the promise?
Don’t stop at being saved and forfeit your promised land. Don’t finish your story before it’s over. Let God in. It’s time to move.
7 Lessons from Joshua – Leaving The Wilderness Season
01: You Were Not Purposed To Stay in The Wilderness
I’m not sure I’ve met someone who ever loved a wilderness season. In some ways, I think it’s because we fear we might get stuck there. It’s this weird in-between where we’re secure in eternity yet longing for something more.
Yet, the wilderness is crucial from moving from the pain to the promise.
It’s the place where sanctification happens. The process of God writing a better story within you, building your character and faith for the journey ahead.
In the process of building a better story, it’s also a place God wants to loosen your grip on the past, surrendering it to him to live a new ending with him. The key to moving through the wilderness and into the promise is surrendering your story to God – working to change the narrative so you can move forward in His power.
As Deuteronomy 8:15-16 says, “He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions…to humble and test you so that in the end, it might go well with you.”
The story doesn’t stop in the wilderness. The wilderness was used as growth to build character for the coming season. God has put you on earth for a purpose, not to stay stuck in the wilderness but to move forward into the purpose. It’s time to move.
02: Your Past Story Matters – Don’t Get Rid Of It
You may hate the story you’ve lived. Maybe you’ve even questioned where God was in that story. A story of heartache and pain, leaving you stuck in places you hate. But God wants to use that story, not to harm you but for good.
The Israelites had spent over 400 years living in bondage to the Egyptians, crying out to God and begging for His deliverance. Their story is one of slavery, yet in God’s good nature, He heard their cries. And He delivered them.
Yet, not long after the Israelites entered the wilderness, they began forgetting what God had done—returning to the old patterns that kept them stuck in slavery. All because they refused to surrender the story to God.
But we can’t forget our past because our past reminds us not of our shortcomings but of God’s great power. If He saved you one, He’d do it again.
In a world that tells you to find a new story or run away from the old one, I’m here to remind you that where you’ve been is part of the story. Whatever the Jordan-sized problem that keeps you stuck in the pain of the past, know God wants to use that and transform that story into one that showcases the power and glory of Him.
Don’t discount your story by chasing a different life. Own the story you’ve lived through, call it by name and remember the power of God who delivered you from that will do it again and again. Let it be a story of redemption rather than a story of shame.
03: There are Greater Things Ahead Than You Left Behind
The Israelites had a hard time seeing the promise as better than what they left behind. They even questioned going back to Egypt, the same place they begged God to deliver them.
Numbers 13 shows us that just a year after they entered the promised land, God told Joshua to send out a group of men to scope out the promised land, take an inventory of the land, and bring back some of the abundances.
This is what they reported when they returned home:
“We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and there is some of its fruit. However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified.
Eleven of the twelve men returned after seeing the land’s goodness, the milk, and honey and reported the negative. They spoke out of the fear of the past, believing that where they were going was no different than what they had been delivered from, even though God promised something completely different.
The Israelites feared the pain more than they feared the God who had delivered them from the pain, keeping them stuck in the place they wanted to escape. Isn’t this also our story? God gives us a vision of something better, but we can’t see it because we’re still living out of our past?
It’s time to stop letting the past have the last word. Don’t look back but forward. Knowing God uses your history to deliver you, not keep you stuck – allowing that story to be transformed into a new story, bringing His Glory to Earth.
04: You have to move to see God work
The story continues with the Israelites staying in the wilderness for forty more years. The generation of spies who disbelieved God’s goodness for the future had to die in the wilderness while God raised a new generation of people willing to enter the promised land – a generation who would faithfully take action.
That’s the thing about deliverance. It takes obedience.
God didn’t just deliver the Israelite’s. He required them to walk in trust that He would. He didn’t erase the pains of their past but showed them how he would deliver them through it. God wanted to uproot the idols of their past pain and know they were a believing generation.
Moving out of the wilderness takes action.
The Israelites had to walk to the banks of the Jordan and step in it before God unleashed the miracle. And this wasn’t any ordinary river.
As Joshua 3:15 “Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season.”
Some commentaries say that the Jordan at that time in history was nearly one mile wide and moving at roughly 40 miles an hour. Without God, crossing it was impossible. But God, just as He promised, would pull back the waters just as soon as they faithfully obeyed.
But this took looking past their fears to see God. I think, in many ways, we all are facing a Jordan-sized problem. One that threatens to overtake us, keeping us stuck in the wilderness. But just like God pulled back the raging waters, he’ll pull back your Jordan-sized problem – if you faithfully obey.
Will you Fear God more than you fear your problems?
“As soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan, their feet touched the water at its edge, the water flowing downstream stood still, rising up in a mass… was completely cut off, and the people crossed opposite Jericho. The priests carrying the ark of the Lord’s covenant stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Isreal crossed on dry ground until the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” Joshua 3:14-16
The Israelites faithful obedience led to the blessing. Their faithful obedience led to the trust that the pain was not greater than the promise. Their faithful obedience declared fear over God more powerful than the thing that kept them stuck. And that is what God is asking us to do.
Take a step in the direction he is asking you. Faithfully obey the little thing. Do something outside the habits that have protected you because you now have God protecting you. And if he can split a sea and cut the waters off of a river to deliver his people on dry ground, how much more will he do for you?
05: Focus on God Not Your Problems
Problems like to capture our attention. Our minds are very good at keeping fixated on what might hurt you. But this often gives them more energy than they deserve, keeping your problems in the driver’s seat and making you feel like God has left.
But God hasn’t left, no matter how much your problems have made you believe it. God is there, in perfect view. Just like He was in the story of the Israelite’s.
That was partially the purpose of the Ark of the Covenant. As they crossed the Jordan that day, God gave specific instructions so His people wouldn’t lose sight of it.
“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God carried by the Levitical priests, you are to break camp and follow it. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.” Joshua 3:3
Something changes when we shift our focus from our problems to Him. It gives us direction. It gives us an unexplainable power, like Peter walking on water. Peter could only stand on the surface as long as he fixed his eyes on Jesus. As soon as he looked away, he began to sink.
Where you focus your attention determines your power. Stop focusing on the pain and focus on the living God who has the ability to deliver you from the pain.
06: Don’t Let Your Problems Be a Threat
I overlooked one of the more fascinating aspects of the story for years. It was how or where God parted the water. It seems like a small detail with little significance, but it can completely shift your fear if you look closely.
“The waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.” Joshua 3:16
This is one of those times the maps in the Bible make a difference. Adam, the place of the water rising was roughly 20-30 miles from where the Israelite’s crossed.
All this time, I assumed the waters stood up, creating a wall of water like walking through a sea of skyscrapers. I also imagined how terrifying this would be to wonder when that sea of water would engulf you as quickly as it rose. Just like our problems like to do.
That wasn’t the case and isn’t the case with our God.
We can only see for 10 miles on a clear day, meaning the wall of water that rose 20-30 miles away from where they crossed wasn’t even visible.
God, in His goodness, doesn’t just deliver you from the threat that feels like it might overcome you. He takes it away, removing it from your site. Take some time to process that knowing that whatever threatens to overtake you has no power. Live in the freedom that you can stop fearing what isn’t there. Your problems are not a threat.
07. God doesn’t stop at saving you, He wants to use you.
Hundreds of thousands of people and their belongings crossed the Jordan that day. Yet not one of them died. Not one of them got lost. No one was left in the wilderness. And He won’t leave you here.
In both the Old and New Testaments, God promised to bless his faithful followers and bring them into a restful place. God’s purpose is to prepare an eternal homeland for his people and to use you to do that.
God sees you, and He is sanctifying you in this season. But don’t stop there. God has called you for a reason. He has given you purpose and spoken life over you. Use that to keep moving. And use that to move beyond your past into the future glory God has gifted you.
He won’t leave you to die here. He had a greater purpose in the promised land. We all have a Jordan-sized problem – don’t let it win. Surrender it to God and let Him write a better ending. The best is yet to come. Trust God and move with him. It’s time to move into the Promise and let him write a better ending.