There will be desert places in your life. Confusing, lonely, weary, desperate places.
Isn’t that a great pick-me-up? A devotional gold nugget right there!
If you’ve been in church or Christian communities at all— or read the Bible even a bit—you’ll see the reality of barren places in life as normal; almost to be expected. And you won’t hear it talked of in a negative light either! Kind of like driving past a forest on the interstate and seeing where fires have demolished what once was flourishing and green… you take note of how sad it is for that beauty to have been lost… and then realize that to some degree, forest fires can actually lead to new growth, stronger trees, and greater flourishing than before.
The desert places in my life are where I have learned to not only call Jesus the One who satisfies—to say He is good with my words— but to believe that He is the One who satisfies functionally in my day to day. To stake my life on it. It has been there, when I am taken to the bottom of depression and anxiety disorders, that I’ve been faced with how empty I truly am. There is no “oasis” within me; yet there is a driving thirst telling me to go to the One. The One who calls Himself “gentle and lowly of heart”. The One who doesn’t ambivalently welcome the thirsty and weary, but with a heart overflowing full of love.
Don’t you think it sounds strange to sing, “I am a barren land / tired and empty”? To sing that and confess that with no flimsy happiness, but JOY?
Some may ask (as I certainly have): “If He loves me so much, then why let me go through the desert places at all? Does He just bide time until I’ve been there long enough? Is He really good if He doesn’t detour me before the shadows fall?”
I’d like to share two places where I’ve seen those questions answered: my own life and the Scriptures.
I know we Christians say that God is good all the time – including when we are falling apart. Truly, there’s a different tone to it for me now; now that I’ve spent enough time in the desert to not only set up camp, but change my address. I now feel the weight of that assurance. In the middle of the desert, I felt like He was cruel. I have more than once thought and shared that sentiment. But now, I see all the weather fronts in those skies and I think “of course I was terrified”, but “now I can see how He orchestrated that storm in order to save me”. To convince me He’s in the boat while the sea rages around. Things buoyed to the surface as the waters churned: things that needed to be seen, or removed, or healed. After facing that time, my confidence is rightly placed and hidden in Him and Him alone.
A favorite and unexpected place in Scripture that shows the heart of God is the book of Hosea.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” Hosea 2:14-16
It is so staggering to hear Yahweh – the covenant keeping God of Israel – saying He is orchestrating the wilderness in order to lead His Beloved away from what is destroying her; in order to restore her hope and flourishing unity with Him. To make it more incredible, His Beloved is not some lovely, deserving object of affection! Do you know who He uses to represent Israel (and us) in the story? Hosea’s unfaithful, prostituting wife. He does it in graphic, heartbreaking detail to drive this truth home: He loves us, He keeps His word to us, He chooses wildernesses for us, in order to truly satisfy us and free us from lesser loves.
He is a deep, deep well… and when we drink, we are fully, forever satisfied.