JOY IN THE DESERT
Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Isaiah 35:1 (NLT)
Having spent time in various deserts, there is an element of beauty – but one has to have eyes to see it. At first glance it’s dirt, scraggly shrubs, cactus, desert sage, minimal animal activity. One has to spend time to see and appreciate the beauty; it is in the cool of the evening (cooler evenings, at least) when animals come out, the ability to linger for a moment to see the blossoms on the cactus or the breeze blowing through creating a majestic scene filled with the sun setting.
Colors become more vivid as eyes adjust – at first, it’s brown, gray, and dull. But, after a while, there are rich reds, pinks, greens, yellows and gold.
It’s with time, things come into focus.
The Israelites grumbled and complained in their desert. No water, no food, no leeks, no Egypt. They wanted to go back. They longed and even begged to go back. Even though it was in complete slavery, they were willing to subject themselves to Pharaoh rather than follow God through the desert.
That’s just it – it’s through a desert. Most desert experiences are temporary. Even if our desert does not end here on earth, the hope of heaven awaits where no wilderness is found.
It does not take one long to read the story of the Israelites to recognize the absence of God in their daily lives in Egypt. Little mention is made of their devotion to Him. For four hundred thirty years (Exodus 12:40). They were silent with God and He was silent with them. I balk at God’s silence for one day; I could not imagine that length of silence.
While in a desert, lessons can be learned. As with the Israelites, God led them. His very Presence was with them – cloud by day and pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). He used a mediator (Moses and Aaron) to speak with them. God provided for them in spite of their complaints, but eventually their complaining led them to spending forty years in this desert rather than the eleven days it was supposed to.
Complaining has it’s price and it can prove to be costly.
In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
How can one gives thanks in a desert? For one, many opportunities present themselves as gifts deserving thanks – shade. Water. Guidance. Food. Protection. Joy of a beautiful sunset, and the cool dawn each morning. The first drop of rain after a dry spell which turns into a downpour soaking everything, but refreshing nonetheless.
Finding color in the sea of brown. Seeing shadows play on the mountains as the days wax and wane. Watching creation live and go about life – ants as they diligently forage for food, mice scurrying about, the howl of the coyote looking for his pack.
How about you?
Granted many circumstances can land us in a time of wilderness. And no one experience is the same but lessons can be learned which are beneficial for all. Learning how to listen to God’s voice, following His lead and accepting His provisions are beginning steps, which are necessary for each of us.
My own personal experience has been chock full of grumbling, complaining on my part and patience and provision on God’s. Two steps forward and five steps back. I am not saying my journey which could have been eleven days has stretched to three and a half years because of disobedience, but I have to wonder.
I’ll admit, I was convicted this very morning about this very thing. Am I enjoying and finding joy in my desert, or am I getting out my maps for my future journeys planning out my life and not savoring the time I have here? No. Yes. Ouch.
It is good to have the Holy Spirit convict us because we can become full of ourselves and not full of God. We can easily find ourselves wandering away from the path chosen for us because we see the shining penny, hear the tingling bells and see a sale. But those are distractions from the enemy.
God wants our eyes on Him. It is His face we seek. When our eyes are on Him all is clouded and dimmed compared to the beauty we see in Him. Nothing else is desirable. Nothing.
Do you find yourself off the path, wandering in your desert? Is God calling you to climb into the yoke of Jesus, which is easy and light (Matthew 11:29)? Are you hearing but not listening because of fear; a desire to linger when you know you shouldn’t, or have you sat down because you ‘cannot’ or will not go any further?
Look up, dear one. Into the face of Jesus. Lean on Him and learn from Him – He is an incredible Teacher. Jesus walked in obedience, so He understands. It’s not easy in the desert, but He promises to be with us, help us and hold us.
Are you willing?
Father God, please forgive my grumbling and complaining in this desert of mine. You know I do not like it, but I now know how I need to be thankful, follow and trust You in the desert and wilderness of affliction. I am tired, but You sustain me. I am lonely, but You are my Friend. I am lost, but You have found me. And I am truly thankful. You are my everything and I come, climb back into Your yoke and submit to Your leading. In the name of Your Son, Jesus. AMEN