I really dislike the desert. It is hot (extremely hot!), barren, dusty, practically nothing grows, and it’s…well, depressing. I thrive on greenery. There is just something so calming about being able to see and hear the rustle of the leaves, to admire the beauty of a vast green field, or to sit in a garden – whether vegetables or flowers – that is gushing with the beauty and bounty of God’s creativity. It makes me happy. It inspires me. It gives me energy. The desert…well it just depresses me.
In Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, one definition of a desert is: “a desolate or forbidding area.” The word “forbidding” was defined as: “not appealing, a frightening or threatening appearance”. It is common to think of a valley as a place of hardship or trial. It is, after all a “low point”. But a valley many times has a stream running through it, and is lush and fertile, full of life. Each has their purpose, but given the choice…you know where you can find me!
The same is true for me spiritually. I would much rather be in the lush green valleys with the quiet trickle of water running over the rocks. That place where, even when life isn’t perfect, God’s Word is jumping off the pages at me, delighting me, instructing me, teaching me and comforting me. The place where my thirst is constantly quenched with Living Water, and I am filled with the Bread of Life. The desert is where we are constantly thirsty. We are searching for water, looking desperately for a tree that we may sit under its branches and leaves for some protection from the scorching heat. Searching till we think we simply cannot go on any longer. We try to pray, try to read God’s Word, but it almost seems…meaningless, and we know that is so not true! That is a lie of Satan, the deceiver. He is kicking and mocking us while we are down.
Just like the physical desert, the spiritual desert is an especially difficult place to be. I think most of us have been there at one time or another. If not, we will be. Why? Deserts have their purpose, and God has His reasons. May I be honest here? I feel like I have been in the desert for quite some time. Actually up until just the past few days. Life has been quite good, with the exception of my health issues, but it could be much worse! There have been no major trials nor problems. I have just been struggling, fighting for that “connection” with God. My prayers have felt like they have gone nowhere, so honestly…I’m ashamed to admit…I was barely praying for awhile. And I know better. I was just tired of fighting. My time in the Word was feeling like I was just reading words on a page. It was killing me! I would plead with God to speak to me…and nothing. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Or why.
When we are in that desert place, it can feel like God is doing nothing, but He is always at work. I was honestly so discouraged until I began to be reminded of the many people in the Bible that went through desert experiences. Moses was in the desert for 40 years before God told him to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. David put in a lot of desert time running and hiding from Saul before God made him king. Even Jesus himself was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by Satan. Desert experiences are to refine us. They are to prepare us for what God has ahead of us. Deuteronomy 8 tells us of the many ways God works through the desert experiences we may go through.
You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness….that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. Deut. 8:2
When the going gets tough do we quit? Give up? I am so ashamed that I did not keep up the fight for a time. That I did not persevere in prayer. I wimped out. I am so thankful for God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy. So thankful He does not give up on me.
He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know….that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. vs.3
Desert times remind us that we have to live by God’s Word. Even when we don’t seem to be getting anything out of it, it is still transforming us from the inside out. His Word is our very breath and life. Nothing else will breathe life into our lungs, into our very being, like the Word of God.
Thus you are to know in you heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord you God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land… vs. 5,6,7a
We are to fear God, meaning to view Him with reverential awe. He is God. We are not. He wants us to obey Him. We won’t know what or how we are supposed to obey unless we are….yep, you got it…reading His Word! He has great things in store for you…and me! He is always at work in our lives, even when it seems He is silent. We need to persevere when we feel like giving up, and remember that God always has a greater purpose in mind than our suffering. He is bringing us to a better place.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
Though I still dislike the barrenness of the desert, I will no longer view it the same way. I don’t care to travel there again any time soon, but I will remember the lessons I have learned. Prayerfully I will be stronger because of them. Friend, if you find yourself in that desert place, don’t despair. Keep reading. Keep praying. Keep seeking. He promises you will find Him…and it will be well worth the journey when you do.
Journeying with you,