Choosing Joy in the Wilderness

Originally published Thursday, 03 June 2021.

The doctors said that full recovery would likely take six to 12 months and from that point onward, I counted off the days with eagerness. When nothing seemed to change by the 6-month mark, I comforted myself by looking forward to the 12-month mark. The timing seemed symbolic to me – I would regain full health as we exited the trauma of 2020 and welcomed in a new year. 

However, as I write this, it has been 1 year and 4 months with no guarantee that those weakened muscles will ever regain full strength. Not surprisingly, this is not a situation that naturally causes joy to spring forth in my heart. 

In a year that was plagued with the peculiar challenges of the pandemic, a health issue was the last thing I needed in 2020. Each month, especially as I passed the 12-month mark and we moved further into 2021, my optimism dimmed, and my faith waned. Despite praying and holding tightly to my faith, not only were things not improving, they sometimes appeared to be getting worse. It didn’t make any sense to me. Where was God? 

Then I was reminded of Joseph. 

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master…His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands”.

Genesis 39:2-3; ESV

“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed”.

Genesis 39:21-23

The phrase ‘…the Lord was with Joseph’ appears four times in chapter 39. In the same chapter Joseph had some of the worst experiences imaginable – kidnapped, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and then imprisoned.

Before his enslavement, Joseph had bold dreams of how he thought his life would look. But then he was dealt one blow after another, and his life seemingly shattered into pieces. Although the bible doesn’t say so explicitly, I believe Joseph must have had an inner joy that transcended his circumstances. Otherwise, he couldn’t have carried on serving others selflessly despite all that he was going through. At the end of it all, we can see that God made a beautiful picture out of the seemingly broken pieces of his life. Something more fulfilling than he ever could have achieved on his own.  

Like Joseph, sometimes we go through wilderness situations that don’t make sense to us but that God in his infinite wisdom has deemed it fit for us to experience.  

When I examine the experiences of the past several months through the lens of Joseph’s story, I can see that the changes that brought loss and limitations afforded me the biggest encounters with God. It was in the darkest nights and the throes of my deepest misery, that I learned that He was with me no matter what.  

“I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!”

Hebrews 13:5; AMP

Many days in the past few months have felt wilderness-like but in that time, I have seen God’s hand at work in ways I previously wouldn’t have understood. Looking back, I can see that He was shaking off the things that I’ve always thought I needed and forcing me out of complacency to a place where I’m dependent on Him alone and can point others to Christ. 

Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV), I remind myself that, “…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”.

So now, I’ve stopped grappling with God for control. I’ve relinquished my assumptions of what my life should look like, and instead, I choose joy daily. Even on the days when it seems as if I am lost in the wilderness – especially on those days – because I’m reminded that despite appearances to the contrary, God is always in control (Psalm 139:16) and all of my struggles fit into His plan somehow (Jeremiah 29:11). 

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them”.

Psalm 139:16

I may not want the struggles, but I do want Him and His plan for my life. Like with Joseph, it’s bound to be better than anything I could dream of and that gives me joy which gives me strength and bolsters my faith. 

Choosing joy is a deliberate moment-by-moment choice to focus on and appreciate the good that God has surrounded me with. This puts my problems into perspective and infuses my mournfulness with thankfulness which produces joy and the comfort that is found only in Jesus Christ.

Wemi Omotosho, PhD is a London-based writer who wears many hats as a scientist, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. She is active in her local church as a vocalist in the worship team, a bible study writer, and a coordinator for the publicity department. In her downtime, she can usually be found with her nose in a book or writing. Her writings have appeared in (in)courage, Iridescent, Awake Our Hearts and Kindred Mom. She is in constant awe of God’s love for her despite her mess and shares her reflections and poems at You can also connect with Wemi on Instagram and Twitter.