I had the opportunity to spend 14 days in Israel. This was a dream come true and an experience I really cherished. The most important part of the trip for me may have been the desert experience. When we think about the desert our minds typically turn to the challenges and extreme danger associated with a desert.
- Lack of water
- Extreme heat
- Deadly animals
- Dangerous terrain
- Lack of food and nutrition
The truth is, the desert brings us imagery of hopelessness, loss, and ultimately death. This truth was experienced by the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years in the desert. As we read through this account and consider their journey it’s easy to take for granted what they experienced and overlook the journey they were on.
Let’s take a moment to take a step back and consider what took place in the desert for them. The journey through the desert positioned the Israelites in the most desperate of situations. They were in a seemingly hopeless situation and they found their only hope of survival by wholly trusting in the provision of the Lord. Probably one of the most important aspects of their wilderness journey is what they learned during the 40 years. Imagine what people were feeling as they wandered. They had such high hopes for the promised land. They could remember the bitterness of slavery and they had hopes for a better future.
Take a moment to pause.
I think this describes us in many ways.
As some of you are reading this you are instantly considering your own life. You may not be in a physical desert, but you are experiencing a “desert season” in your life. You find yourself filling your head with doubts and questioning God’s will for your life. You may have experienced some kind of failure recently. What possible worth could there be in the waiting? In the pain of the desert? Why would a loving God allow us to go through desert seasons?
First, lets take a look at Acts 17:24-28. This passage is a source of incredible encouragement for me. My specific boundaries and geographic location were determined by God. Not only our boundaries but even the “allotted periods”. This at the most practical level means that our work, school, families, and homes that we live in are allotted and determined by God for a purpose, namely our good and His glory.
Hope in the desert:
The Israelites experience in the desert was meaningful and not meaningless. They learned how serious God was about his Holiness and his people living according to his laws. They learned humility in being forced to trust God when the had no way to provide for themselves. During the course of 40 very difficult years, they experienced the simple and life giving blessings of the Lord. These experiences caused them to return to the hope they had in God.
Your desert is not meaningless. The job that you have is not meaningless. The neighborhood that you live in is not by accident nor is it meaningless. There is a purpose and God is working in your desert to provide simple blessings to cause you to remember the hope that can only be found in him.
Learning in the desert:
Human nature and our current cultural trends have us focusing on the destination. There is much more focus and drive to achieve and arrive at the goal. In the process we create a tunnel vision that causes us to miss the beauty of the journey. In Israel our tour guide, Boaz; focused on this aspect of our behavior as we walked up to the Mt. of Beatitudes. So many of us were focused on getting there, that we missed the beauty of the sea of Galilee that can only be seen on a certain part of the journey up.
Our hyper focus on getting ourselves out of the desert season we may be in may not be the best for us. Just as the Israelites had to learn important lessons, we must also. The desert just happens to be the means by which God teaches at times. What can you learn in your desert? How is God working to shape and form you in His likeness and image? What are the frustrations that you bring to God and are pleading with him to resolve so you can move on to the bigger and better?
It’s in these questions that we find the grace of God and we begin to see his will and purpose for our life a bit clearer. As we realize what God is teaching us, we can be encouraged to know that he also has a plan for us and is working in a 100 different ways simultaneously to cause us to reflect Him and prepare us for the future.
There is meaning in our desert. There is a value in our waiting. God is actively working and shaping us and uses the desert seasons of our life to accomplish this. Be encouraged, the desert will come to an end. The saddest thing is if the desert comes to an end and we missed out on all that God had desired for us to learn in that season.