Sometimes the desert

SS Sometimes the desert

Often I have wondered why we have to suffer through such dry and difficult times in Christ.  Why do we find ourselves in dry places as followers of Jesus?  Why do we have to go through the desert?  I mean there are many who say being a Christian in the desert should never happen.  I hear the distant cry from the popular prosperity gospel culture saying “hakuna matata” with the faint lyrics of George Michael taunting me with “you gotta have faith” complementing their promise of no worries if your greatly favored.  It begs the question, do I go through the desert because I am weak and faithless?  Is the promise in Christ really all about easy living, monetary wealth, and great health?  I wonder though, perhaps sometimes we need the desert?

I am facing a second bout with cancer in 3 years and it has been a tumultuous ride for both me and my family.  I am blessed with an incredible wife, and also a grace filled and very benevolent church.  The battle is not fought alone, but it is a battle none the less and it is being waged in a desert.  It comes with highs and lows of physical sickness due to chemo, dark nights of spiritual attacks, and moments of feeling so overwhelmed by God’s presence I can’t even define the feeling to you.   In the past three years I have realized 3 major theological truths every Christian should understand when the going gets tough.
1 – Its never been about us but always His sovereignty.  I am going to make a horrific mess of God’s great design when I try to manipulate things. and believe me I have created my own share of deserts (another story for another time).  Gods plans are truly greater and though I don’t always like them from my vantage point, I trust Him.  I struggle and wrestle with what He does at times because I cannot see all that He intends to do with them, so in the end I trust.  He is sovereign.
2 – All we can really do is press in to Him and press on with Him.  I can truly do all things through Christ and like Paul I have to find contentment even in sickness at times.  In order to do this I have to press closer to Christ like a baby chick to a mother hen.  The only way I can truly go forward is to lean into the One who holds tomorrow in His hands.  When I fall into self pity I press into emptiness and greater isolation.  I have to press into the only One who can lead me onward.
3 – The desert defines and prepares us for greater things.  This is the biggest one.  This is the one you have to grab a hold of cling to.  You have to plug your ears to the friend with good intentions telling you your faith is weak.  You have to know that the desert can be a beautiful place of rest, maturity, and refining of your soul.   Its a place of saying “I believe, help me in the gaps and struggles where may faith lacks”.  Look at some of these great Biblical leaders who faced the desert:
David cries out in Psalm 42:7 “Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.”
Elijah watches God decimate the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 and then runs for cover after Jezebel threatens his life.  He cries out in 1 Kings 19:4 “I’ve had enough Lord, take my life.”
Paul lays out a laundry list of difficulties he faced in the work of ministry to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 speaking of beatings, hardship, sleepless nights, and dangers from all kinds of people.

There are so many more examples but just these three but here we find a king (David), a prophet (Elijah), and arguably the greatest missionary example (Paul) showing us that they all had deserts.  Each of them faced a moment, or more, where they would have to press into the LORD, trust in His sovereignty, and live in the desert.  Instead of bemoaning the dryness and desolation, each would find a defining moment with the Lord.  Each would grow in their faith and relationship with the Father and each would be refined and go on to greater things.

David would become King, face more deserts, but be called a man after God’s own heart – 1 Samuel 13:14

Elijah would be swept away into heaven right before Elisha’s very eyes – 2 Kings 2:11

Paul would tell the Corinthian church the greatest truth of all; God’s grace is sufficient, even in the desert – 2 Corinthians 12:9

If your in the desert today stop looking at how dry it is and remember that God wants to do something through you, in you, and with you while your in the desert.  Don’t let satan turn your eyes to the dryness and desolation, instead let God reveal his great grace.  Remember Psalm 23, the desert is a shadow, just like death, and in the desert God goes with us, equipping us for something greater in the future.  Sometimes we need the desert to remember just how great God truly is and just how much we truly need him.  In the desert we get prepared for greater things because sometimes the desert….