Picture a desert; vast, hot, dry sand extending as far as the eye can see. You wake up to find yourself right in the middle of it without any knowledge of how you got there. Yet, here you are, experiencing the intensity of it first hand. I never imagined that this would be part of my story, but the desert is a very real place that many people have experienced.
You can’t find this desert on a map. This desert wasn’t created in the world we all live in. This desert resides in our minds and is created by our fear, our guilt and our shame. Its a period of time where God and everything else seems so far, when all is really so close. We experience the desert when we wake up from a long slumber of spiritual lowliness. When our cry comes before God asking for mercy and forgiveness, but our shame and guilt keep us from accepting God’s fervent love. Your blind walk through the lowly valley has left a scar on your spirit and always reminds you of how ignorant you once were. Your eyes are now open once again, but the feeling is far from what you once felt. The light is too bright, so I close my eyes and walk blindly forward. My skin burns in the heat, so I cover myself and hide from its conviction. The air is dry, so I shut my mouth and refrain from speaking. The same light that guided my every step is the same light that I cover my eyes from. The same warmth that I once found comfort in is the same heat that I hide from. The same air that breathed life into my lungs is the same air that dries up my voice.
The desert is a place where many Christians may have gone through, or are going through right now. You want God’s hand in your life, but it hurts too much to accept him. You see his work around you, but don’t see it in yourself. It is in this period of time where all you want is for it to end; to finally reach the edge of the desert and feel God’s blessing and power.
When it comes to times like these, it is easy to lose sight and fall back and lose your purpose once again. I want to challenge your heart to see God even in the desert.
The desert was never meant to be avoided!
The first thing that hurt me the most in walking the desert was the constant desire for it to end. I wanted what I had before everything came crashing down. I wanted the relationship I had with God before I became lazy, and I wanted it NOW! I saw no value in the desert, only pain and discontent. There is no hope that can ever derive from out of the desert. When Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, it wasn’t easy for them. Their desert was literal, and their pains where fatal. They were starving, they were thirsty and tired, weak and helpless. Exodus 3:16 says:
The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.
The people of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt where they at least were fed and living. I realized that this destructive mindset was exactly mine. My cry was to have what I once had before. I didn’t see what God wanted to do during the time in the desert. The desert was meant to be endured. It is a blessing, not a curse! God has brought you out of the bondage of sin! That is not something to grieve over. God values the desert as a means to bring you back to him. What kind of hope would Israel have had if they decided to go back to Egypt and into slavery? Just imagine all the blessings and miracles they would have missed if they chose not to endure. You need to get to the point where you value the desert as a necessary process God is using to redeem you and transform you into something greater then you were before. Let the past stay in the past. You will never be the same person you were before the fall because God is expanding your mind and spirit past all your expectations of who you can be. Take the step of faith; trusting God’s love as you walk in the desert.
One of the most incredible things that I experienced in the desert was how vibrant God’s hand was in the desert. Once I settled down and stopped worrying about the heat, I began to see all the life going on around me. When everything around you is overlay with sand, every little fragment of God’s beauty becomes extremely evident. You will soon realize all the beautiful sprouts of life that somehow managed to survive against all odds. To God alone is their credit. Watch attentively to even the little details God places in front of you, and you will see just how big God really is. God cares about the little boy that doesn’t seem to fit in. He cares about the person that never listens or cares about what you have to say. He cares about the person who you wish to never see again. That is why God has brought you into the desert. He brought you into the desert to learn to love like he does. To shine a light on everyone and everything going on around you. When you attentively watch all the wonders God is doing around you, something happens on the inside. Your mind and heart get fixed on those little sprouts of life God is revealing to you. Your attention shifts from all the pain you are feeling, and love enters your heart. God fills you with love for every little flower that sprouts from the earth. Every living person that you come in contact with has value and beauty given to them by our God. But it takes love to see it in them. Once your heart becomes set on that, God soon places more and more of them in front of you until before you even know it, you are walking in a beautiful garden like you have never seen before.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8
In the book of Exodus, when Moses leads Israel out of Egypt, it is often thought that the true time of celebration takes place when they finally reach the promised land. You finally made it! The pain and suffering is no longer! But what if we chose to celebrate God’s power in the desert? What if we celebrated all the little things God is doing that we normally miss? There is nothing that God wants more than a heart yearning to be closer to him, even if it is in the form of a desert.
The desert is of God, but the shame, guilt or fear are all things that God wants us to strip away. A heart that can’t accept God’s love is a heart that can’t accept God’s provision. You can only love God as much as you love the person you love the least. So very often in the desert, the person you love the least is yourself. When you choose to endure and watch God unravel his love before you in the form of life, you will begin to see it in yourself as well. Let your eyes be opened, let your shame be uncovered, and let your voice be heard as you faithfully walk in love!