Who wants to live in the desert? I doubt any of you raised your hands. Last week we discussed leaving our comfort zone, sometimes not by choice, and residing in the desert or wilderness. Why is this necessary in a Christian’s life?
Despite the fact many trials are a byproduct of living in a fallen world, God can and does use trials, and yes, sometimes even orchestrates them, for our spiritual growth.
Throughout my spiritual journey (and believe me, I’m not there yet), I’ve discovered some powerful truths about the desert, as well as why it’s imperative for spiritual growth.
Sometimes your mission/calling is discovered in the desert. The desert can also prepare you for your calling.
Moses spent one-third of his life in Pharaoh’s palace and the other two-thirds in the wilderness and desert. John the Baptist chose to live in the desert. The Bible doesn’t explain why, but perhaps he found the trappings of the good life a threat to his calling. Before he was king, David spent time hiding in caves to elude death by King Saul. David’s wilderness experience surely brought him spiritual maturity and wisdom to be the next ruler of Israel.
Desert experiences often follow mountaintop experiences.
Mountaintop experiences alone don’t bring spiritual growth.
Other than his resurrection, Jesus’ most joyous moment was probably his baptism. Yet, afterwards he spent forty days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-10).
Moses had mountaintop experiences with God while in the desert, but upon leaving the mountain, he found the human condition more deteriorated each time.
Seeking only the “why” and “how” or someone to blame impedes learning the purpose of the experience.
“Do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.” Hebrews 3:8
I recently finished reading His Desire Is For Me by Bob Emery, which underscores how pain and loss can be used by God in “order to capture some stray part of our lives that has not yet fully come under his control.” Furthermore, our journeys into wilderness are a process in which to get to know God, for “it is not in our comforts, but in our lack of them, that we are pressed to discover who he really is.”
The enemy will attack.
You-know-who will whisper in your ear that this is not your fault, you don’t deserve the trial, God has forsaken you, yada yada yada. Don’t listen. He knows what his ultimate fate is and will try to take as many souls with him as possible. He will tempt you with power, prestige, and yes, even good works. Jesus stood firm against the enemy, and in Matthew 4:11, the Bible says, “Then the devil left him…”
You’re not alone! God dwells with you there! He protects you, meets your physical and spiritual needs, and replenishes you.
The other half of Matthew 4:11 says, “and the angels came and attended him.”
God fellowshipped with Moses throughout his leadership of the Israelites. God’s counsel is recorded in several places. In Numbers 3:14: “The Lord said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai…”
“They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock.” Isaiah 48:21a
“David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.” 1 Samuel 23:14
“He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas.” Psalm 78:15
Jesus often dwelled in the desert—by choice and by calling.
Dwelling in the desert means quiet time with God. Jesus understood the necessity of lonely and barren places for spiritual maturity.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16
“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness.” Mark 1:12
The cross was the loneliest place on earth. Jesus prayed to avoid it and, even as he was dying, cried out, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
God has the power to intercede.
“Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Genesis 21:14-18
No matter how bad the situation, God is still on his throne. He has not forgotten you. Trust Him for a solution in His perfect time.
Some deserts are worse than others.
Comparing our degree of hardships with others or trying to assignment fairness to our trials is futile. We live in a fallen world. Bad stuff happens—to good and bad people. This weekend here in Anderson, a local 25-year-old man was run over by a drunk driver. His younger 15-year-old brother died in a car accident last month. His father died of cancer in June. How fair does this feel to the mother? I can’t possibly imagine. Some deserts have no explanation or reason in our human minds.
Sometimes the hard work is up to you.
Don’t hear me say something I’m not. I’m not saying take the reins from God’s hands and try to solve your situation alone. But often you can do things like returning to school to retrain if you’ve lost a job and have little hope of finding another one in your field. Perhaps you’ll have to work at a lesser paying job while you do so. But battles, whether physical or spiritual, require joining forces with the Holy Spirit to overcome.
“He turned the desert into pools of water
and the parched ground into flowing springs.” Psalm 107:35
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11
What a great promise!
And right now, in the good times and bad
You are on Your throne, You are God alone.
What is your desert? If you’d like prayer, please email me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
Please remember our permanent prayer list, as well as Sgt. Jesse’s McCart’s updates above. Contact information for sending postcards to him and other soldiers is listed on his page. We have several folks battling cancer. Would you take a moment to lift them up in prayer?
© Laura Hodges Poole