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Why the Wilderness?: God Sends Angels <I>After</I> We Go Through!

Why the Wilderness?: God Sends Angels <I>After</I> We Go Through!

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Why the Wilderness?: God Sends Angels <I>After</I> We Go Through!

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Dec 22, 2005


Author Walter M. Brown Jr. describes the wilderness as an inner feeling of barrenness. Through the spiritual direction in Why the Wilderness?, he hopes to help you better understand your own desolate times by seeing how God assisted him through his own.

God allows-and sometimes even plans-your personal wildernesses to mature you for life and ministry. Once understood, this process can help immunize you against these experiences. Brown provides advice on how to overcome "wildernesses" of rejection, silence, and continually changing circumstances. He guides you in the quest to rise to what God intends for you, to better understand the connection between hope and faith, to address and overcome your secret fears, and to bring to light your areas of personal darkness. Also included is a forty-day devotional guide, complete with poems, questions, and reflections.

Negotiated wildernesses are important to your spiritual growth and your fulfillment as children of God. One thing is for certain-until we address and venture through the wildernesses in our lives, the angels cannot come!

Dec 22, 2005

Sobre el autor

Walter M. Brown Jr. uses twenty years of military service, formal academic training, and life?s lessons to address a common, difficult issue: the wilderness. Florida residents, Brown and his wife travel worldwide spreading the gospel.

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Why the Wilderness? - Rev. Dr. Walter M. Brown Jr.






Chapter 1

Defining Our Wildernesses

Chapter 2

Hagar’s Wilderness

Chapter 3

Church Hurt Is a Wilderness

Chapter 4

Marital Wilderness

Chapter 5

The Wilderness of Rejection

Chapter 6

The Wilderness of Silence

Chapter 7

The Wilderness of Changing Circumstances

Chapter 8

The Wilderness between Promise and Fulfillment

Chapter 8

The Wilderness between Promise and Fulfillment

Chapter 9

Hope and Faith in the Wilderness

Chapter 10

The Wilderness of Death

Chapter 11

When Wildernesses Collide

The Angel Outpost: Epilogue

Forty-Day Devotional




Why the Wilderness is dedicated to the members of the United States Armed

Forces, particularly the Navy and Air Force personnel. You have been my

extended family for twenty incredible years. I also want to acknowledge the families

of military personnel who, in the words of Rear Adm. Ronald H. Henderson,

took no oath, but yet they serve. God bless you one and all for your labor of



This is my story of overcoming some of my many wildernesses. The story begins with obvious pain and ends in observable joy. Initially, this book began as a result of one specific wilderness, but my premise expanded as I remembered, addressed, and recognized the move of God during other barren times in my life. I invite you to read it, not because it is dramatically different from your own story, but because my story may be your story. You may discover that my successes are similar to your successes, and my failures and lessons learned may mirror yours.

Life’s wildernesses often produce more questions than answers. My questions and subsequent answers may assist you in your own personal question-and-answer interchange. Wildernesses are often lonely and crowded—at the same time. My story necessarily intersects the lives of many people. I report those interactions and present the edifications these associations produced. These collisions allowed us to experience shared sorrows and mutual delights.

Let me say a few words to my military audience. I have always wanted to write about failure to make rank/promotion. Prior to not making rank, I did not know how to earnestly address comrades who were not selected for promotion. Now I can. Job is my biblical witness: My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you (Job 42:5 NIV). I have seen so many of my friends traverse this wilderness. I would always offer well-meaning words of encouragement but knew my attempt at comfort only scratched the surface. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not asserting that only those who experience the multitude of emotions nonselection brings can address this issue. But, a peculiar kind of legitimacy is granted when any event is professed through the lens of personal experience.

Military personnel and civilians experience barren times. There are no easy answers to the whys of rejection, but there is always hope and help. I submit this offering to readers with a prayer that you will experience confirmation, reaffirmation, challenge, and enlightenment. I hope these words will bring healing and comfort and provide more than a measure of precious peace.


I am writing from Malta, the ancient island next to Sicily and just north of Africa. This is Paul’s Malta, where the apostle was shipwrecked in the first century AD (Acts 28). I just toured the church dedicated to that event. What a testimony to the apostle’s contribution to Christianity and his impact on this small Mediterranean community. This is also the city, the locals like to boast, where the first temples for worship were built about 3000-5000 BC. That Paul was shipwrecked here, of all places, was no coincidence. I believe God wanted a beachhead in this religious, tradition-rich place.

I am stationed on board the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), a warship of mammoth proportions, one of only twelve aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy’s incomparable armada of ships. This great vessel houses more than 5,200 personnel and dozens of fighter, attack, and support aircraft. She is more than a military fortress; the JFK is a floating city that never sleeps. Sailors live in berthing spaces that can hold eighty, one hundred, and sometimes as many as one hundred and twenty personnel. We have our own newspaper that keeps the crew abreast of all that is going on. Thousands of meals are served daily. Laundry is done for the entire crew. Except for intimate contact with immediate family, every need—religious, social, and otherwise—is met onboard the JFK. (I use the word intimate because sailors can reach home daily through e-mails and our POTS—plain old telephone lines.) To see this haze-gray behemoth, crowned by fighter jets, attack aircraft, helicopters, and radar equipment, fitted into a port made for medieval sailing ships and oar-powered longboats is a curious sight, to say the least.

My writing from the island of Malta is not a coincidence. I am writing about the wilderness—my inner feelings of barrenness—as I sit on the JFK and look upon this exotic land. (Malta, of course, is a long-civilized, highly developed community.) Paul was carried to this ancient, pre-Christian place by divine destiny. So was I. The fact that Paul’s ship wrecked and my ship docked is of little significance to God. We both needed to be where we were and are. The ultimate physical destination of the two ships—for Paul, Rome; for my carrier, points unknown—are also not as important to God as the ultimate spiritual destination of those that God directs: Paul, me, and you.


Paul’s quest was trying to understand the workings of a God who was not opposed to using extraordinarily uncomfortable means of getting us to where we should be. That is my (and our) quest as well. God could have arranged for Paul to get to Malta by some other means. Why use the life-threatening experience of a shipwreck? I would have preferred visiting Malta by way of a luxury airline instead of on a crowded warship. Paul’s questions to God are similar if not the same as ours.

•   Why this way?

•   Why at this time?

•   Why didn’t you ask me for my opinion?

•   Can we—you and I—talk now?

•   God, where are you in all of this?

•   Can this trial wait until I feel I’m ready?

•   Will this hurt?

•   If so, how much?

•   When I finish, am I through, at least for awhile?

These and similar inquiries lie at the heart of our effort to understand God’s direction for our lives. Even after thirty-plus years ofservice to this oft-mysterious God, I am just now beginning to scratch the surface of comprehending why God does what God does. In fact, I now know that no one can boast of fully understanding God. That, I also know, is by God’s design. We must always maintain a healthy awe of God. When we lose that awe, we make mistakes like Uzzah, who in an attempt to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling, tried to assist God and was summarily struck down (2 Sam. 6:7).

The Prophet Jeremiah issues his own warning about this matter of awe. Jeremiah 2:19 (NIV) says, ’Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider…how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. We must admit that there are times when we just can’t figure God out. When we begin our study with this premise, we are better prepared to start our journeys through the wildernesses of life.

Unlike our biblical predecessors, most of our wildernesses are not physically barren places, full of untamed animals, void of shade, shelter, and water. Old Testament characters and early Christians experienced those kinds of wildernesses. Through denial of their normal—though often sparse—amenities, they were able to hear God more clearly. God still places people in wildernesses today. Rather than barren places, some struggle with the barrenness that plenty brings and what has developed into the poverty of the soul. Many of us have too much of most things: time, food, money, etc. There is nothing wrong with having these things in abundance, but they can and often do drive away our dependence on God. Thus we experience the wilderness and are reminded that we need God.

The untamed animals we face are not wild beasts but widespread, unchecked discord reflected in so many places, which can be just as deadly. We are in danger of not heeding the civil in civilized. As a society, we are constantly at each other’s throats. Consider the harsh rhetoric between competing groups: Republicans versus Democrats, Christians versus Muslims, young versus old, and rich versus poor. The list goes on and on. We single out deficiencies in our enemies, yet easily dismiss those same flaws in our friends. Our wildernesses, as well, may have fine tiled roofs and leafy elms but no real spiritual covering. We have bottled water and tap water aplenty, but we are still thirsty for living water. We have physical shelter but are unduly exposed to elements of unwanted, unspiritual change. Our nation’s highest court recently set in motion decisions that may endanger our fundamental rights with regard to home ownership and personal property. Be assured, twenty-first-century wildernesses are every bit as difficult to negotiate as the ones experienced by biblical characters, sometimes even more so.

This book is about the wildernesses God ordered and allowed for me. I will examine many barren times in my life by weaving in biblical and contemporary characters. I also drew inspiration from Sailors and Marines officer and enlisted, and even from foreigners that Navy ministry has allowed me to encounter. Although Malta is a key site of my inspiration, it was not the beginning of my God-ordered wilderness. I am on six months naval deployment, thousands of miles from family and friends. That can be a dismal wilderness. We are sailing into the Persian Gulf to prosecute our nation’s war on terror. Our ship is preparing to fight an enemy that is both unpredictable and ruthless. Even so, my personal wilderness is more extensive still. Before embarking, our ship’s commanding officer called and said, Chaplain, the news isn’t good. You didn’t make captain.

Failing to make rank allowed me to understand that God can take us to uncomfortable places where we must go if we are ever to become totally committed servants of the Most High. I obtained solace from this biblical passage more

than any other: Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him (Matt. 4:11 NIV). I knew that if I could just hold out, divine help was on

the way. I also knew that God could not send the ministering angels until I had gone through the wilderness.

Chapter 1

Defining Our Wildernesses 

I have come to understand a great deal about many of life’s wildernesses. My mother died on September 16, 2002. She was my rock and was responsible for my birth, twice—natural and spiritual. Her support and praise were as free-flowing as a gentle spring shower. I never knew her wrath, only her complete love. I miss her daily! Then my stepfather of thirty-nine years died eighteen months later. His support for my mother and his stepchildren was outstanding. He so blessed our broken family. Their marriage was such a rarity. Men do not usually take on the demanding responsibilities of caring for four small children, but he truly cared for me and my three sisters, Beverly, Tresa, and Jill. My stepfather died within a few months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His decline and death were that much more troubling because he always seemed to be a picture of perfect health. As if those episodes were not enough, one week later my biological father died after a lengthy illness. What a man, what a father, what a friend. The words from an old Eddie Fischer song—"Oh, my papa, to me he is so wonderful’—come to my mind when I think of him, which is often. I move like him. I talk like him. The older I get, the more I look and behave like him. The loss of these key people in such a short span of time constituted for me a difficult wilderness to negotiate.

Important to note is that death and the resulting bereavement are not the only personal wildernesses we experience. Some personal wildernesses we bring upon ourselves by making poor decisions. Still others are thrust upon us by the harsh actions of other people. There are wildernesses that are simply applicable to our human condition. How wildernesses occur does not lessen their difficulty or the negative impact they tend to have on our lives. Life becomes difficult when we lose parental support, suffer as a result of poor decision-making, or are beset by challenging circumstances that are not of our own doing.

Personal wildernesses are life’s trials and are simply a part of the human experience. We all must go through them. In fact, we are expected to help one another as we go through these deserts of life. There are books aplenty to assist us. Never forget that God stands by our side as we go through. I have also learned that there are ministry-specific wildernesses.

Some are called to go through ministry-specific wildernesses for spiritual growth and development. Indeed, if we are to reap the rich harvest of dynamic ministry for God, we must go through the refining process of being planted and cultivated in the rough soil of ministry-specific wildernesses. They are not to be confused with personal wildernesses. Realizing that personal wildernesses and ministry-specific wildernesses are different is important only as we assess how we achieve relief and assistance. The benefits of both are undisputed. A personal wilderness gets us closer to community and requires community support. There is a popular song that comes to mind when I consider them: " I need you; you need me; we’re all a part of God’s body." Our solutions to overcoming personal wildernesses are based on our being positively connected to family and close friends. I don’t know how I could have made it through the loss of my parents, through my suffering from personal missteps, through misfortunes brought on by others without the support of my wife, my sisters, other family members, and many close friends. Although God was there, their caring cocoon of support was my emotional salvation.

Ministry-specific wildernesses are different in that their aim is to increase our dependence on God. Family and

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