Life in the Desert

 

The desert is not a common vacation destination for good reason – it’s not a place that most people want to visit. We long for beaches and mountains, for valleys and lakes. We want beauty and life abounding. We don’t seek the Sahara because the desert is lonely and forsaken; an unforgiving place where resources are few and life is a struggle.

Yet, the desert is also beautiful. It is a severe beauty of browns and reds and rust and rough edges, but a beauty nonetheless. The desert’s beauty is not immediately evident, but slowly uncovered.

When we first encounter the desert, it is barren and unwelcoming. The harsh landscape and the extreme environment are frightening. There appears to be nothing refreshing, everything is dry and thirsty. There is no life here, we think. So why are we here?

But if we stay, if we look closer, we see that there is life. Life everywhere. Life that has learned to thrive in thirst and want. Life that lives in the concealed bounty of the God who created the rough and rocky places. This is the true beauty of the desert: unknown yet robust life.

What is true of the natural world can be true of our inner landscapes as well. Sometimes we find ourselves in the dry and thirsty places of the soul. There are seasons of life that are emotionally barren and empty, where we are sure there is no comfort, no refreshment, and no life. There are places of the spirit that are unwelcome, that we do not want to visit. And just as in the deserts of the earth, the deserts of the soul are filled with shrouded beauty and teeming with life. If we are willing to sit in the desert, to endure the thirst and discomfort, to look closely, we will find life. If we are willing to stay, we will hear God’s voice and know His presence.

The Bible is full of examples of the life that springs forth from the desert. Out of this forsaken place, God prepared and drew forth His greatest servants. Moses spent forty years in the desert until God called him to rescue His people from slavery and then returned for another forty years to prepare them to enter God’s land. David spent twenty years in the desert wilderness hiding from King Saul where God prepared him to be a king whose throne would never cease. Elijah hid in the desert from Ahab and Jezebel and God brought forth miracles in his life, none greater than the still small voice of His presence. Jesus prepared for his mission to rescue the world by heading into the desert for forty days and often withdrew to the desert to meet with His father. Paul went to the desert of Arabia for seven years before setting out to change the world. This common calling to the desert is no coincidence. The desert, though hard and forsaken, is the place where God prepares the hearts and lives of His people for the work He has for them.

Times in the desert may not be sought after or welcomed but they are normal and necessary. We should not fear time in the desert. It is in forsaken and thirsty places where we find the deep wells of God’s love and the richness of God’s resources. It is in the desert where we find the deep and secret life of the soul. It is in the desert where our spirits learn to live in the hidden bounty of God.

 

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