Detours Through the Wilderness

By Deb Benigni, Grow Coordinator
November 12, 2020


Have you ever noticed how many detours there are in the Bible? It seems like every chance they got, God’s people, or even God’s son, would go from the beaten track to a time in the wilderness.

It might seem hard to believe that there’s value in a detour, especially through some place like the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but there is.

There’s something to be said for standing in the middle of nothing…or in the middle of nothing but God’s presence.


How would you react to an obstacle like this?


I had a chance this year to participate in a virtual conference about small groups hosted by the Church of the Highlands in Alabama. Esteemed pastor and author John C. Maxwell spoke on the second day. He asked a simple question of the global audience watching on-line: “How did you utilize 2020?”

This extraordinary period, Maxwell said, could be described as a “wilderness year.” But that doesn’t mean it’s lost time. He noted that our best lessons can be learned at our worst moments. When Maxwell asked leaders in business, church, or politics when they learned their most important lessons, he said most spoke about what they realized in times of crisis. Not everyday lessons, but painful lessons. Not the sunny highway, but the detour in the wilderness.

John Maxwell said—and I believe—that there is something inherently beautiful in our detours. The unexpected path teaches us to depend on God. 

I had the good fortune to travel to Jordan in 2017, where I walked in the footsteps of Moses and saw for myself the bare landscapes of the Biblical wilderness. The stark hills of the Holy Land, far from the prosperous trade routes or the homey fishing enclaves of Galilee, can seem forbidding, yet these are places where the Jews of Exodus learned to be a people. This is where Jesus went to be tempted, but also to be waited on by angels.


Why the wilderness?

Our comfort zones are nice places, but it is in the wilderness where we truly grow. Crises like we’ve known recently (with Covid, with racial injustice, with the election) move everyone out of their comfort zones! In the wilderness, we have new ears to listen to God. On the detour, we have new eyes to see how hard the road is for others.

We’re always a little on edge when we hit a detour: “Oh no, this is something we didn’t expect! Where is this taking us?” Dr Maxwell said that one key is to slow down and enjoy the ride. Realize that you may not come this way again, and you don’t want to miss the scenery. 

When asked, “How did you utilize 2020?” make your time in the wilderness a memorable detour, not a wasted experience. 

Stay in prayer, join a small group, get to know your neighbors, practice self-care, read books, try new things—make not just 2020 but all years the best by making the most of your time in the wilderness. 

Enjoy the detour!