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When we arrived at the nearby state park our excitement to find a new place of beauty vanished. Our jaws dropped. Is this the right place? The bone-dry lake created a crater, void of life. We trekked the trail in disbelief.
After a couple of hours, we decided to take a shortcut back to the car by hiking across the bed of the lake. We traipsed down the bank through tall dead weeds. We stopped at the shoreline. The sienna dirt veined tiny cracks in all directions.
As we plodded across the parched land the cracks grew wider and deeper as if the ground split open for air. Deliberate steps to avoid twisting an ankle slowed us down. The drought-ridden terrain reminded me of times we trudge through the desert.
We long for a significant other, news of an adoption, or a positive pregnancy test.
We pray for years for a marriage that barely has a heartbeat.
We stagger when the quakes of addiction or illness upheave our lives.
Sin catapults us into a wilderness we never thought we would walk.
I know many people walking the way of the wilderness right now, don’t you? I want to encourage you with three principles that help me in the desert season.
Your desert is not your destination.
In the Bible, the desert is a period often found between the bookends of strengthening and fruition. When Jesus prays after his baptism, he receives affirmation from God. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” God proclaims his identity and gives Jesus affirmation. The Spirit leads him to the wilderness where he is tested. After the forty days in the desert angels minister to him. He emerges full of Holy Spirit power and begins his ministry.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will make it through this time. As Yoda would say “Our final frontier, it is not.”
Your plans feel thwarted but God uses the waiting to prepare you for your calling.
We desire a desert drive through. God allows a desert staycation. God invests in our character, not our timetable.
Joshua and Caleb scour the Promised Land assessing the land, the people, and the fortified cities. They return from their exploration fired up, ready to conquer Canaan. Confidence in God’s provision fuels their faith. They remember how God rescued them from Egypt. Ten other spies return with reports of giants. They see fortified cities that they can’t take down. They believe they will be devoured by their foes. Fear fills their hearts.
As a result, Joshua and Caleb wait forty years. During the Sinai situation, they see the consequences of those who choose unbelief and try to do life their own way. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go well.
Under the leadership of Moses, Joshua gleans the wisdom and maturity to lead a whole new generation out of the desert. They were not being punished. They were being prepared.
Do not lose hope. In our waiting, we can wonder what God is up to.
You are not alone.
Hagar flees to the wilderness to escape Sarai’s harsh mistreatment. The second time she is sent away with her son, Ishmael. I imagine she felt alone in the desert. Both times God shows up to help her. He calls her by name, knows her situation, proclaims a promise, and provides nourishment.
Hagar gave the Lord a name. “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have seen the One who sees me.” Gen 16:13
We can cling to the God who is aware of all of our circumstances. He knows the trails we trek. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. And He is faithful.
We may wander through our wastelands for different lengths of time. But we will face the same tenacious, desert-dwelling enemy Join me next as we explore the distractions we must avoid in the desert.