Posted by: bellissimanh | November 19, 2011

Deserts of Desolation

Imagine yourself in an arid desert. The sun is beating down insufferably as you trek through the barren wilderness. Sand swirls around you as the dry wind stirs it up. Your skin is tight and coated with a dusty film; your mouth is parched and your lips cracked from the lack of moisture. Although your feet are moving, your progress is painstakingly slow as you navigate sand. How badly would you like a tall glass of water? Or a spot of shade? Anything to break through the desolation and bring refreshment, even a little bit.

Have you ever felt like this, maybe not in a physical sense, but a spiritual one? Like the days couldn’t be any longer… or the terrain more rugged… or the journey any tougher? Yeah. Me too.

I used to think that these seasons of dryness were simply a result of not abiding with the Father. You know the drill… lack of time in prayer and in His Word leads to a depleted and weary soul.  Well that’s true to an extent, and typically, if someone were to tell me they felt as though they were walking through a spiritual desert, I’d ask about their quiet time. Our intimacy with God directly affects our spiritual health and sense of well-being.

But what do you do when you find yourself in that desert and it’s NOT the result of a lack of attention to your relationship with the Lord? What if you’re doing everything “right” – being disciplined in your quiet time with the Lord, walking in obedience, and seeking His face, begging Him to speak – and yet still, you experience that desolate feeling? What then?

I had a friend once who tried to explain this to me. I didn’t get it. Circumstances had landed her in a deep depression, and although she cried out to the Father to show Himself, and picked up His Word every day, she couldn’t shake the heaviness… and she couldn’t feel Him near.  At first I assumed that she must not be telling me the whole story, that there must be something in her life that was blocking her intimacy with the Lord. Yet as she poured her heart out to me, I could sense the very real pain she was feeling. The fatigue. The rejection. The intense loneliness. The bitterness. And in those emotions, I felt her honesty. I knew that she was being truthful… and I had no answers.

Now, several years later, I have walked through my own season of barrenness. Like my friend, I had not stopped communing with God each day. There wasn’t any specific sin issue (not that I’m sinless) that stands out to me as something that might have hindered my walk with Him… but it was a long, LONG and difficult period, and circumstances had left me feeling overwhelmed…. depressed… and maybe even a little forgotten by God. I don’t live by my emotions, because I know they are deceiving and that what God SAYS determines my reality, not what I feel, so although I knew He was still there, that He loved me, and that He had a purpose in my pain, it didn’t make it easier.

I’m grateful that I am walking out of that period of my life. The Lord has begun healing in my heart, and I feel as though He is, as He has promised to, breathing new life into my spirit. I read this verse today and it washed over me, fresh and cool…

“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.” ~Isaiah 43:19

Though these last years have seemed like a desert, looking back I can see how God has changed me through it and a treasure of good things that He has brought from it.

I keep a guard over my tongue – I’m quicker to shut down conversations that are not honoring, either to God or to others, and I’m more sensitive to how my words will affect those around me.
 I’m not as legalistic as I once was – I’m quicker to extend grace and slower to judge.
I do a better job of loving my children well – I’m intensely interested in the details of their lives, I listen more, and criticize less.
My marriage has experienced a rebirth of sorts – there is a closeness and transparency that was absent before our recent challenges… and we begin EVERY day by opening God’s Word together and seeking His face.
My views on “church” have evolved from something we do, to something we ARE – with fancy trappings stripped away, and a focus on what it really means to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
I feel the pain of others more deeply – as I learn what it means to imitate my Father, being compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (Ps. 145:8).

So while I’m thankful for the streams in the desert… the refreshing that is coming as I move forward out of this challenging period of my life… I’m also thankful for the lessons learned in this barren wasteland, and for the Living Water that flows, not just to satisfy my thirst, but I pray that it will splash out on others around me and revive them as well. Make it so, Lord. Amen.

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Responses

  1. What a great start to my morning! I’m on my way over to the church for a 7:30am rehearsal with the band– I think I will pull out “Cry Jesus” as the first song we go through. You got a copy of the “Shine” album, didn’t you? Check out the lyrics to that song to see how closely they follow your blog… Pastor Terry calls those times “desert experiences”. And yes, I probably passed nearby you in the desert one of those times… been there! Done that! Been brought through, changed and lifted up by Him!

  2. Thanks! Yes… I love that song!

    “…brought through, changed and lifted up by Him!” Amen!

    Have a great Sonday, Matt! 🙂


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