When You Are in a Spiritual Desert

It’s a new year and some of you are bursting into it with excitement, energy, and focus because you know where you hope to be by December and you are ready to get there. Nothing can stop you!

And, some of you have awakened each morning and wondered how you will get through the day. You feel lost and you’ve no idea where you are going. Spiritually, you feel dry as a bone in an unending desert of hot, dry sand as far as you can see, no matter what direction you look. You don’t know what to do, and even if you did, you aren’t sure you have the energy to do it.

For those of you in the desert I know how difficult it is because I’ve been there; and it is not a fun place to be. However, the most important thing to remember in the time of desert wandering is that no matter how alone you feel, you are not alone; God is with always you.

God promises that he will never leave or forsake us; and we can trust God to always keep his word. God doesn’t change; he doesn’t promise us things to give us false hope –his promises are truths that we can rely on. It is from his promises that we draw strength.

For those of you in the desert today, who need a bit of encouragement, I am reminded of a couple of times where God met people in the desert and ministered to them.

The first is in Genesis: Hagar and her son (Ishmael, the son of Abraham) were sent away into the desert. They had no choice. When they ran out of water, Hagar was hopeless. She was lost. She was heartbroken. She had no energy. She prepared her son, and herself, to die.

It was in her lowest moment that God met her in the harsh terrain of the desert and opened her eyes to see life-sustaining water nearby. Was the water there before the Lord got there? Did he keep her from seeing it until she was ready to see? We don’t know the answers to all of our questions, but we do know that God was in the desert with her, and at just the right time, he revealed himself and the thing she needed in order to live.

God is in the desert with us, and he sees us! He knows how dire our situation is. He will come to us at the most perfect moment, and he will provide exactly what we need. Perhaps we need him to open our eyes so that we can see what it is that we need. Will you ask God today to open your eyes?

Perhaps you are lost in the ways of the world, thirsty for a purpose, desperate to know why you were even born. If that is the case, what you desperately need is the Living Water that only Jesus provides. He alone is the way out of the desert of lostness and despair, and he promises to give life to those who believe; abundant life that will never end.

Then, there are the Israelites. We know the story: Moses led them out of Egypt, and even though it was less than a two-week journey to the promised land, their desert experience lasted forty years. Forty years. That’s a long time.

Why did it take so long? Because when they first arrived at the Promised Land they didn’t trust God. They were afraid to go in and they rebelled against God. God forgave them, but the consequences of their disobedience meant a lifetime in the desert; until the untrusting generation passed away.

Nevertheless, the Israelites didn’t just sit in the desert for forty years; they learned to follow God, rely on God, and trust in God; and God never left them. Those who trusted in God did eventually enter the Promised Land.

If you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior, and find yourself in a desert, perhaps it is time to look back. Was there a time when you failed to trust God? Perhaps you knew what God was asking you to do, the holy life he was calling you into, or the stand that he wanted you to take, but you didn’t trust him to walk with you, and now, you are in the desert. Are you learning to rely on him while you are in the desert? Will you move forward with him?

We probably won’t be sent out to the desert like Hagar, and we probably won’t literally wander like the Israelites, but God knows our circumstances and calls us to the same trust. The same Faith. Because he is the same God. And because he is God, he knows exactly how long our desert experience should last.

These aren’t the only reasons that God might take you – or allow you to wander – into the desert, but you can trust he will only keep you in the desert as long as is necessary for you to learn or unlearn whatever it is that you can only learn in the desert. Therefore, while our bent is to focus on the sand (our circumstances), we must deliberately force ourselves to look inward at the dryness of our hearts. The desert is sometimes the only place where God can get us alone long enough to show us the depth of the dunes of our stubbornness, ignorance, and pride.

If you are in a desert, God is with you there, you are not alone, and he has a perfect, good, and glorious purpose for letting you walk through this dry season. Will you trust him to open your eyes to show you what you need at just the right time? Will you trust him to walk where he’d have you walk even if it is into unfamiliar territory? Will you work with him to bring you to the water that will sustain you?

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who mediates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.
–Psalm 1:1-3
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Marcia’s book, 365 Days of Grace — is currently available on any of the following links:
WestBow Press

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