When I thought of deserts, I thought of arid, horribly hot, lacking color and life. Here I am, in the desert, literally.
I have been to the desert a few times in my life—desert places of desperation where tongue sticks to roof of spiritual mouth longing for a drop of refreshing. Just—one—drop to sustain one—more—day.
Desert places of life can be horribly hot and arid and we think they lack color and life. But then again . . .
I’ve learned a thing or two about desert places and about the God who created the deserts into which He sometimes leads. Mostly, I’ve learned about me—about my fears and doubts–my plain unbelief and mistaken notions.
Yesterday—our first day in the desert—God brought me out into the wilderness to show me some truth.
Last year at this time, I was in a desert place of mind, heart, and soul. Still loving God, I wondered what He had done with my life—what He was doing with me—where He was taking me. I had found myself dying of thirst, hungry for sustenance, broken in heart.
Depression—the most fearful beast I have ever encountered—engulfed me like flames and I screamed for help from those who are highly degreed and licensed to prescribe. The hard of life had covered me like a death shroud wrapped tight while I was still barely breathing. I cried out to the Lord from my desert place and He took me by the hand and walked me through with the help of loving others.
I have counseled many who have found themselves in such desert places of soul, wondering if they would survive. Fears of being consumed are common. Hope one can’t hold for ourselves is needed. No greater blessing has God given me in life than to hold the hand of the hopeless and guide them through thick, choking smoke until they can see and breathe and hold His hand by themselves once again.
I’ve been to the desert. I’ve seen the flames of burning bushes. And I have not been consumed. God sustains. The God who MADE the elements CONTROLS the elements. He is IN the elements. Holy fire only consumes unholy elements. But burning and consuming hurts, even when it’s good. And we do—not—like—pain. Do we?
Desert places are hard places but they are also GOOD places. Often, they are painful and scary places, but they can be GROWTH places. Deserts draw us close to our Maker and show us who we really are and can be.
On our hike, I saw the stark and stunning contrast of life and death showing there are seasons and cycles to everything. And what did I NOT hear? I heard no complaints from the desert about seasons and cycles.
Yet, I hear the complaints of my soul in seasons of drought and too hot and pieces dying.
Are we the god of our deserts? Who are we to dictate the seasons of our souls? Who are we to demand blossoms only? It’s the diversity of life—the contrasts—that provide beauty and create wholeness. When we reject diversity, we reject wholeness, even within ourselves.
But who would think one could actually find JOY in desert places of hard, hot, and arid? And yet . . .
Oh LORD, how GOOD You are!
I had prayed before embarking into this desert place . . .
Let me see, O God, what you would have me see on this journey. Thrill me with Yourself.
He did. He showed me colorful rocks, hand-painted . . . gentle breeze, mouth-blown . . . hot sun, held positioned . . . giant saguaro, raising praise arms to their Maker. And blooms! He showed me blooming life in the hard and hot and arid. Cactus are starting to bloom!
And just when we’re worn and parched we reach the peak . . .
And our God THRILLS again with the creativity of His creation’s crown jewel!
Someone brought adornments clear up here, in the dry and dusty and hot. Someone brought Christmas to the desert place! Someone reminded us that, even in desert places of life, there is JOY–even when the sparkles have been worn off by desert wind.
Though our hearts hurt and our eyes cry and we wonder why . . . there is JOY in knowing the One who knows.
He KNOWS us. He SEES us. He never FORGETS us.
There is JOY here. The One who MADE us LOVES us enough to not dismiss and abandon us to our own destructive selves or to the ignorance of others. And even in the hard, desert places through which we must pass, He provides glimpses of hope—buds and blossoms of promised new life.
Even in the desert, God is with us. And where God is, there is always beauty and joy to be found. When we walk with God—through it all—we find TRUE LIFE indeed because . . .
He IS the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.