Responding to the Wilderness

By Nate Thoreson – Regional Director

I strained to hear any sounds through the phone. Nothing. I told my son I loved him, but he didn’t respond. He was 3,000 miles away in the Critical Care Unit, and my wife was on a flight to be with him. The stark reality weighed heavily on me as I thought, “My son may die today, and there is truly nothing I can do to stop it.”  

I wept.    

While attending college in Massachusetts, our 20-year-old son contracted double pneumonia. His lungs mysteriously filled with unstoppable fluid. Waiting for news across the country, I prayed, “Lord, I know that you are the only One who is sovereign, and I know that you can choose to let my son live or choose to take him. If you do, I want you to know that I will still follow you.”  

 Everything in me was being tested at that moment. I felt completely alone. But remembering God’s Word prepared me to face the fear of the present. I didn’t understand God’s plan, but I knew I could trust Him. I realized my faith was real, and my God was, too.  

Into the Wilderness

Matthew 4 begins with Jesus in the wilderness. As a man, He had been pushed to His very physical limits. Completely alone, Jesus was tempted by the father of lies. In this gripping passage, Jesus not only withstood temptation but used God’s Words to do so.  

Hebrews 4:15 reminds us Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.”  

In my own personal wilderness, waiting for news about my son, I was tempted to fear, worry, anger, doubt and so much more. But remembering Jesus’ response in the wilderness helped me to see beyond my “desert.” Focusing on His Word, His promises, and His character gave me the strength to stand firm in my faith.  

Years before my son was even born, I approached God’s Word as good advice, a way to do good things and avoid bad behavior. But my attempts to earn God’s favor only left me exhausted and joyless. Slowly, God revealed to me the truth: Scripture is not offering good advice, but good news!  

I didn’t need good advice while waiting to hear about my son’s fate. I desperately needed good news. And the truth that Jesus felt what I felt, walked where I walked, and gave His life for mine was more than enough. The ultimate power of His resurrection and ascension secured my hope in His eternal promise and gave me a foundation to stand on when trials came.  

That day, God spared the life of my son and strengthened my family’s faith. We were transformed in the wilderness. When we emerged on the other side, we wondered, “What now?”

Sharing the News

After His testing in the wilderness, Jesus did not go back to His normal life. He went to Capernaum, and in verse 16 we are told He fulfilled the prophecy “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 

Jesus began to preach to many, and He called a few. Walking beside the Sea of Galilee, in verse 19, Jesus simply said, “Come, follow me, I will send you out to fish for people.”  

For those of us who have experienced Christ, who have seen the light in the wilderness, we are compelled to share that good news  

When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, He offered them more than good advice. He offered them a path to follow, a purpose to pursue and the power to change. Jesus asked them to come, promising He would do the transforming and the sending.  

So where is God sending you? Take a moment to remember your own days in the wilderness. Think about Jesus’ comfort, presence, and power. How will you respond?  

Matthew 4 gives us the framework. Following Jesus’ example, we can simply share and invite. Perhaps God is also calling you to share with a co-worker, a friend, or a family member from your own wilderness experience to offer them some Truth, hope, or peace.  

Today, I see the fruit of God’s Matthew 4 promise in my own life. Our son, who nearly died, is alive and following Christ. As a newly trained pastor, he and his wife are responding to God’s direction to “fish for men.” The seeds God planted through His Word have grown in ways we never imagined. 

A simple way to start is by inviting someone to experience BSF. What would it look like if every person in your group invited someone to join? How would our communities change? How might God transform our families through His Word?  

We may not have good advice to offer in every situation, but that’s okay because we have something better. We have the Good News of the gospel, and that lasts for eternity.  

Nate Thoreson

BSF Regional Director

Nate is the Director of Men’s and Regional Directors at Bible Study Fellowship Headquarters. A physical therapist by training, he and his wife, Barb, moved from Idaho to Texas to answer God’s call to BSF Headquarters. Their son and daughter-in-law, Luke and Sierra, and baby Amira live in Boston. His daughters, Kiana and Sara, are dancers in college. Nate has been a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, and Teaching Leader. He loves Jesus and likes adventures, good coffee, and chocolate chip cookie dough!  



  1. My daughter was 9mo when I was at work as a nurse in pediatrics. I received a call from mhiy husband when I was working evening shift, that my daughter who had cold symptoms was crying and hot to touch. When I got home her temperture was 103 degrees. She sounded congested.
    Went to E R. by time we got there temperature was higher than 106 degrees. She went into a coma after having 2 severe seizures.
    After many attemps they were finally able to get a subclavian IV in and administer medicine to lower her temp. but she did not come out of the coma. For 3 days she remained that way and after tests they were not sure what was wrong but thought she may have been hit with a quick acting type of Strep bactera that was affecting her entire body.
    They took us aside on day 3 with news they felt she was dying and to prepare ourselves for this.
    I went to the chapel to pray also and thank God for the time I had with her and commend her to him . I shared how much love I had for her and did not want her to die but if this was his will to give me and my husband strengh to trust in him. .
    I was exhausted but at peace. I went up to her room and we both held her and said our good byes. Daughter was still stable so we decided after 3 days of no sleep , we needed to go home and try and sleep. After praying I had a peace come over me and
    felt if she died that night I had to have some strength for the days ahead.
    When we returned the next morning around 7 am ( no phone call during the night), I could tell when I entered hospital that something had changed and prepared myself to find out she had died.
    Instead when we entered her room she was sitting up and playing in her crib and full of energy. She jumped up in the crib when we entered and reached out to us. No description of the emotions that followed. Drs. agree it was nothing short of a miracle being witnessed and we made sure all glory went to God and his authority over even death.

    Our daughter is working for our church is people always coming to me , telling me. how special she is. I always reply I give all Glory to God . When our Idaughter looks into the mirror she has a circle of small freckles around her neck where the failed
    attempts to get that IV in failed. I tell her that is God’s way of letting her know he is always with her.

    • Diane, thank you for sharing! This story had me in tears. God is so amazing, His works are beyond our understanding. So grateful for you and your precious daughter!

  2. This is so encouraging! Sometimes when we are presented with difficult circumstances, we go to God expecting Him to do what we want. God will, if that’s His plan. Mr. Thoreson prayed if God chose to let his son live or die, he would continue to follow and serve him. It confirms that God’s purpose is truly perfect in our lives. I am happy to hear your son is doing well. Keep praying and serving the Lord!

  3. Such a heartfelt story of love, faith and obedience. Through this journey I witnessed God’s mercy and his unchanging allegiance to people in need, his people. Thank you for sharing and may God continue to walk beside you and your loved ones.

  4. I agree with inviting more people to BSF; the other day I was telling someone at the Healthplex where I attend water aerobics…it is in the morning, so I know others there would be available. How about helping us out with a little pamphlet or just a short print-out with the basic info? If you make it easier for us to get them the info and easier for them to remember it we would have a win!!

    • Betsy, such a great idea! Will bring this up with our communications team!

  5. Thank you, Nate. I lost a child many years ago. Not really prepared for her death with scripture or the Gospel. I was a believer, yet I had not lived long enough to grow in a Christlike manner. Yet, my husband and I had great faith. It is now 63 years later and through studying God’s word through BSF has given me much more dependency on God and his generous love. I am at peace. Thank you again.

    • Hi Rachel! Thank you for sharing part of your story- what a powerful witness you are to me. You have been prayed for with thanksgiving. I can only imagine what seeing your child again one day might look like. Blessings

  6. Thank you for sharing. To God be the Glory, great things He has done. Awesome is our Lord.

    • I have lived with my husband for 52 1/2 years he had cancer 7 years ago went in remission & now possible flare up. I live in the desert at times but let God led me out. I have BFS to help me & strengthen me & guide me & know if God wants now it will be hard but I will accept it

  7. I can so relate to Mr. Thorensons article. My daughter was diagnosed with Hodggkins Lymphoma . We believed it was not an illness unto death. She lived 6 years with a resistant type that never responded completely to any treatment. After a second bone marrow transplant she became progressively worse but I believe more from treatment than from disease. At the same time my husband began Lewy Body dementia symptoms. My prayer was to come back to NC and God gave me the desire of my heart. About 1 mo. Before moving back and 2 before the Lord took my daughter to be with Him she was becoming more terminal. My heart was breaking to say the least. I visited her in the hospital on Monday and shortly after mid it, the Lord took her home. Monday evening, when Iarrived home from my visit I stormed the gates of Heaven in intercession, rededicating her to the Lord, thanking him for loaning her to us for 41 years, and asking Him if He was not going to heal her on this earth, to please not allow her to suffer much longer, but to take her home, asking His will be done. In less than 10 hours, she was in God’s presence, leaving her husband and 16 year old daughter . Some may say why did you pray that way, why ? Why? Why? I prayed that way because I know my Savior is trustworthy, Sovereign and in control and that I could trust Him in all things. He has been faithful to my granddaughter who is now 23, still misses her Mom and He continues to work in her life. I can only say there are things worse than the death of the body and the pain of grief and that would be eternity without Christ. That day my daughter graduated from her disease ridden body into her eternal home , free of all suffering and pain. That day was also the 56th wedding Anniversary of my husband and I and the day I was born 77 years before.

    • Beautiful Betty!

      There are things worse than death! This is a profound truth and I can relate! I prayed for the Lord to relieve the suffering of both my mother and father when they were near death. I know they both are in His presence now. No more night! Blessings to you!

  8. In 2019 my 32 year old daughter was dying of liver failure, malnutrition, kidney failure, and other medical issues due to her drug use and an undiagnosed medical condition. After 4 weeks in the hospital, she survived. We took her home and took care of her, trying to improve her physical condition. My hope was that God would save her soul, and that she would live a life glorifying God. That has not happened. She is on the same path as before. My hope is in God that He will save her before she gets to death’s door again. And yet if He doesn’t, I continue to trust Him, knowing that He is GOOD and everything He does is good and right.

    • Kay- feeling the heartache and pleading with you for your daughter to our gracious and powerful King of Kings. Lord have mercy!

  9. Our God is such an awesome God. See how He loves those who call on Him. Nate’s testimony is a touching one and we thank God for using him and his family so mightily.
    May His glorious name be praised. Amen!

  10. Thank you for encouraging us and reminding us that though we may find ourselves in the “wilderness”, Jesus has given us His Word, His promises, and His character to sustain us. He can identify with us and will give us the strength to trust His timing and provision, for He Himself has experienced the wilderness and has overcome.

  11. Thanks Nate for sharing the trial with your son. This too happened to us, with our son who had just taken his first job in a city 5 hours away. He was only 23 and always was a healthy child. Then a chronic illness took a hold of him and what through two surgeries and much prayer has turned into blessings. He left a profession of finance where greed, money and self were what all were striving for. Now he is attending medical school and working towards helping others in a service oriented profession. He hopes to become a doctor that can help people that have gone through what he did. Praise be to Jesus on that.

    • Hallelujah! Good News not good advice. Powerful testimony

  12. Love these words Nate!

    • To God be the glory!

      Thanks Clay!

  13. Uplifting sharing, I enjoyed the blog, our GOD is an awesome Father

  14. Very encouraging. Its a call to “wake up from sleeps” may God continually whet my appetite for the ourse of Christ in whatever situation I find my self. (A charge to keep i have) … May God be my helper.

  15. Thank you for sharing these words. God is calling me to be a light to my family in the last days, years of my father’s days. I have been in such a dark place of grumbling and fear…but now I know Jesus is with me as I go and His peace and strength inspire me through this article. Thank you for sharing your gift of words and faith is has bolstered mine.

  16. Thank you for the reminder that Jesus not only offered Simon and Andrew a path, He also promised to do the transforming and the sending. When I feel too weak I know I can rely on Him. Many thanks. A beautiful piece that means a lot to me.

  17. Thank you for the message. I was in a kind of confusion for the life that I am leading. I love God and gave my life for more than 2 decades and served Him out of love for Him. My life in the wilderness is for extended period. Though I did confess for all sorts of sins that I knew and don’t know. Fasting and praying, rebuking the works of the devil, nothing moves. Many times I wished to go home early but I am afraid how can I present myself bare handed before God. I am here for the best reason you have mentioned.
    I am married and have two children. I am a nurse and also with degree and masters in Business Administration. I have no stable job to cover my expenses. I am hard working but nothing moves. For the last 10 years my family is suffering from financial stagnation.
    I have a calling but could not move forward my calling. Praise God. He is sovereign God. I will trust and continue following and serving Him. Thanks for sharing your testimony. Yes my case is also might be in the Critical Care Unit. I believe that God will resurrect it soon and use it to reach out millions all across the globe. Blessings.

  18. Hallelujah thank you brother for sharing as we give GLORY to our Lord of Grace! May you all enjoy great health and continue to serve JESUS with Joy! Thank you JESUS for teaching us and shaping us as the pot from the clay “shaping us as seemed best to HIM!”

  19. We are studying Matthew in NSF. Very timely

  20. The verse that spoke to me the most in Matthew 4 was the quote from Deuteronomy 8:3
    “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
    God provided manna for Israel when they wandered in the wilderness. God also provided for the world by sending His son Jesus for our wilderness.

  21. What an encouragment. Keep up your good work

  22. I am uplifted by your blog after losing my dear brother to pancreatic cancer in 12 days from the diagnosis. I am still numb from the loss. Your experience and reactions were so unlike mine. I lost my brother and I became angry with God. Since his passing, I have realized that God will honor my request for healing but just not here on earth. I still praise His Holy Name and I know He is my Lird and Savior. He is true to His promises so I know I will be reunited with my brother again and He will wipe away all my tears.

    • Oh Janie, the same thing happened to my brother but it was only 3 days; he was single and he just kept ignoring symptoms and pushing himself. I got Triple Negative cancer after that; it was several years ago now. What I want to tell you is, you can cooperate with God’s obvious plan for you to live now, or you can cooperate with Satan’s also obvious plan to kill and destroy: choose, not to ignore your loss, but to live very well. Green parsley smoothie with frozen blueberries or pineapple once a day, regular exercise, regular prayer and praise!! and sleep. This will lift you up and place you where you will thrive; which is what God (and your bro, cheering you on from the cloud of witnesses!) want. Sending a big hug, Betsy

  23. Yes. In my time spent in the wilderness and coming thru and out on the other side. I’ve experienced God’s grace and seen His light. There’s comfort in knowing none is out there that our sweet Jesus didn’t choose to experience on our behalf and for our eternal benefit.


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