When You Are Wandering in the Wilderness

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Walter Albritton

By WALTER ALBRITTON

Participate in nursing home worship a few times and you will soon discover that residents who no longer talk will begin singing, from memory, some of the great old gospel songs. Singing unlocks memories still preserved in aging minds. Seeing and hearing that happen is a beautiful experience.

In my advanced years I still remember the words of many hymns that I have sung hundreds of times in worship. So, to frighten loneliness away, I often entertain myself by singing songs that reaffirm lessons God has taught me. “Trust and Obey” is one such song, and as I sing these words I am refurbishing my faith:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will He abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Those two words — trust and obey — are the gates to victorious living for Christ followers. Trust the Lord. Why? Because of Who He is. He is the Creator of all things, of the world, of myself and of all those who are dear to me. He forgave my sins when He died on the cross. I can trust Him because He loves me. He is my Shepherd who is ready to guide, correct, comfort and use me.

Obey the Lord. Why? Because obedience is the pathway to blessing. He rewards my obedience with His blessings which are greater than the blessings offered by the world. Obedience is the gate to life. Disobedience is the gate to defeat and death. If I break the Lord’s commandments, I really break my life. To refuse to obey the Lord is like sliding down the banisters of life with the splinters all pointed in my direction.

No one ever defined “trust and obey” better than Solomon: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). A man is never wiser than on the day when he admits that he is not smarter than God.

Study the Psalms and you discover these songs include the “commands” of the Lord, the most frequent of which is “Praise the Lord.” Psalm 100, for example, includes several commands such as “Make a joyful noise to the Lord” and “Serve the Lord with gladness.”

Psalm 100 was evidently composed to be sung during the annual celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, known also as the Sukkot. When God established this feast, through Moses (Leviticus 23), He used this words: “Take branches from luxuriant trees — from palms, willows and other leafy trees — and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” There is a command: “Rejoice before the Lord your God.” The Israelites were instructed to live for seven days in temporary shelters, or “flimsy booths,” to remind them of their disobedience while wandering in the wilderness and living in temporary shelters.

How did they disobey God? They complained about their problems instead of praising God for their deliverance. So why does God command them to “rejoice in the Lord their God? Because praise — rejoicing — is the pathway out of the wilderness. We see this clearly in the New Testament when Saint Paul, more than once, tells his suffering Christian friends to rejoice always, giving thanks in all circumstances.

I have learned that rejoicing is the pathway out of my wilderness days. Complaining only makes my plight worse. What helps is to embrace the truth that God’s commands are not suggestions. His instructions are commands. So when I am in the wilderness of self-pity, or depression, or loneliness, or discouragement, or suffering, or prolonged grief, I try to remember that God commands me to get outside, look up at the stars and the clouds, and rejoice in the Lord, no matter how dire my circumstances.

And what better way to rejoice than to sing! I can sing the Psalms! I can sing the songs stored in my memory bank, like this one: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice!” When I am in tears, when sorrow has me by the throat, I can refuse to complain and rejoice in the Lord — and walk right out of the wilderness.

When you find yourself in the wilderness, remember: There is a way out. You don’t have to stay there.  You can sing your way out.

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again i say rejoice!

Praise him, praise him, all ye little children, God is love.

Praise him, praise him, Jesus our blessed redeemer, sing o earth, his wonderful love proclaim.

Rejoice, the Lord is king, your Lord and king adore! Lift up your heart, lift up your voice, rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice, ye pure in heart, rejoice, give thanks and sing; your festal banner wave on high, the cross of christ your king; rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

I’ve got the joy, joy down deep in my heart

I’m learning to lean, learning to lean, learning to lean on Jesus, finding more power than I’d ever dreamed, I’m learning to lean on Jesus.

One day in milton, florida, I was visting a woman dying with cancer. She was skin and bones. I asked if she would like to be baptized and confess Jesus as her savior so she could receive the gift of eternal life. She said yes and fell on her knees as her coffee table. I baptized her and asked Ralph Freeman to sing. He sang this:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host; praise father, son and holy ghost.

Today, no matter what hard times you are facing, you shall be wise to obey God’s command to rejoice in the Lord your God. You could do that by singing psalm 100: Lord, today I come before you and by faith I choose to make a joyful shout to you. With your grace I will serve you with gladness, come into your presence with songs in my heart; I will affirm you as the God who made me; you are my shepherd, I am one of your sheep; as long as I have breath, I will come before you with praise, for you are good and your mercy is everlasting and your truth will never die. Hallelujah!

Amen!

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