Have you ever had a time when you followed God as He led you in a new direction and it didn’t turn out like you had hoped? You obeyed, God moved, and a few months later you are asking, “Why are things so hard?” The joy has dimmed, the work you were so excited for is not easy, and your soul feels dry.
Can you relate? As Christians, we can experience desert times in our lives.
Many years ago, we wanted to give our children a private school education, but it meant a move for our family. We prayed and God opened doors to the school of our choice, a job for my husband, and a location closer to our extended family.
We moved, but within the first year we were experiencing things we never dreamed we would go through. We couldn’t find a church, the children were stressed, and our marriage was strained. We had moved by God’s direction and we found ourselves in a desert point in life. We still refer to this as our “four years in the desert.”
After moving back to Wyoming, I read Daniel Lapin’s Thought Tools (1), where he explains, “The word for desert in Hebrew means talking.” He further explains that if you are in a desert place, it is because God wants to have a conversation with you.
This caused me to look at those years differently. Although those years were some of our hardest, God did speak to us very clearly and taught us a great deal. Those were some deep conversations, but I learned to be honest with God and wait to hear His voice.
At the end of those four years, one of the things that came out of that time was the idea for Grapevine Studies.
Our story is not unique. It follows a familiar pattern, one we first see in Exodus.
God moved on behalf of His people being held in bondage in Egypt. He delivered them with a mighty hand out of Egypt and told them He would lead them to the Promised Land. He took them through the waters of the sea but a few days later they were still walking in sand, sleeping in tents, and their food and water were running low.
I admit, it would have been hard for me not to complain. God was testing them and showing them the condition of their hearts. He led them to Mt. Sinai, gave them the Law to show them how to love Him and live with each other. He gave them a place to worship Him, shoes and clothes that did not wear out, and daily food.
But they were still in the desert!
If you are in a desert place, do not fight it. Take the time to listen to what God is wanting to talk to you about. Is the Lord asking you to trust Him to provide, and helping you to focus on what you have without complaint? Is He preparing you for a new start?
With a new year, take the time this month to list out what God has given you. Choose an area you would like to grow in spiritually, like prayer, service, or study. Ask how you can love others better this year through mentoring a new believer, being faithful in church or community service, or watching your words and attitude.
If you are in a desert time, do not waste it! God is taking you through it for a reason. He wants to talk with you and prepare you for something new.
I hope this look at spiritual deserts will encourage you if you are in or coming out of the desert, but also prepare you for a coming desert experience.