Sometimes years of someone’s life is covered in a sentence, a paragraph or a few sketchy events. Sometimes there is just a big empty gap. For example, we know nothing of Jesus’ life from age twelve to age thirty. God often develops His servants out of sight: “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away” (Isaiah 49:1,2).
Sometimes prime years are hidden years. They are the years God develops us, often in obscurity. It is in our lonely years that God trains us.
Moses spent forty prime years in the wilderness of Midian. So little is said about those hidden years. I try to imagine what must it have been like for Moses to grow up in the opulence and sophistication of Egypt, to be groomed for leadership, steeped in privilege, and then to flee for his life to tend sheep for forty years?
Lonely? Confused? Questioning? Fearful? Disappointed? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. The Bible is mostly silent about forty years of this great leader’s life. But these were the years that shaped a man of God, a man for God.
The lonely years feel sparse, spare, empty. These are years of tremendous temptation. We are tempted to still the discomfort and to fill the emptiness. These are years when our choices have great consequences. This is the time for seeking God, trusting God, taking painful, unsteady steps of obedience. These are the years for going deep with God.
In our loneliness we must realize that a friend, husband or wife won’t necessarily erase loneliness. Many married people still feel intense loneliness. Even in a close marriage or friendship, the other person can’t always be there when you need them most. A new circumstance won’t necessarily banish loneliness either. Some of the most beautiful, famous and successful people are among the loneliest. This is the reality. God is the only one who will always be there for us.
Your lonely, hidden years are not hidden to God. He knows you. He sees you in your loneliness. He has plans for you. Let Him develop your trust in Him in these years.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord..” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses” (Ps. 25:16,17).
“Fear not…let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:16,17).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6).
This is part of the mystery. Our bleakest times often turn out, in retrospect, to be the foundation of lifelong blessing. Live the mystery