The Bible frequently compares life to a desert experience. Often, life leaves us “feeling the heat of the desert” by way of poor health, wayward children, seemingly loveless marriages, the betrayal of a close friend, or any number of other disappointments. Sometimes it is our own waywardness that has left us wandering in desert places.
Biblically, the desert is a dry, arid place that is not merely flat ground; it is often mountainous. When God’s people wandered through the desert, they sometimes had to climb high hills and follow along rough terrain, not knowing what lay around the bend.
Bible teacher Ray Vander Laan says that God sometimes leads into us to desert moments where the heat wants to consume us, where the lack of “spiritual” water drives us to the edge of desperation. However, at just the right time, God provides refreshment or shade from the heat of our experiences in order to teach us that we are not alone in the wilderness.
The broom tree is one example of how God provided shade for His weary pilgrims. This tree (or bush) grows out of the rocky places in the desert and grows tall enough to provide just enough shade from the intense heat of the desert. God’s provision is even seen in the roughest of places in life.
These desert moments then become moments to meet God, for Him to demonstrate His amazing love, care & provision so that slowly but surely He nurtures us into being a people who KNOW we can’t live life on our own terms, that KNOW we need God’s daily sustenance for life.
In God’s weaning us from our own self reliance, He is preparing us to then be that shade and refreshment for other people struggling in their own deserts. Isaiah 32:2 speaks of God’s intention for His people:
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
God’s desire for His own people who have been nurtured and sustained by Him in the desert places of life is for us to then turn around and be shade for other hurting people. It is His will for you to know Him throughout ALL stages of life so that YOU can be a help to other hurting people in the dry & weary lands of their lives.
Yet, before you can truly be a help to other people, you must know God in the desert for yourself. If you are in a hard place right now, maybe you should consider that God is doing a work in you so that you can be used of Him to help others.
Chaplain Barry Black is chaplain of the U.S. Senate and a retired Air Force chaplain. During his military chaplaincy, he was once in the hospital visiting a Marine who had a very aggressive form of cancer. His appearance had changed dramatically in a period of weeks so that he was barely recognizable. Chaplain Black said, “I sat there w/ all of my training in psychology knowing not what to say to this man…
“Suddenly, a physically fit Marine stuck his head through the door & began to talk to my patient & he basically began describing the symptoms. And he said, ‘your food tastes like cardboard; your tongue seems so thick that you can barely swallow anything, you don’t even want to drink water because it hurts. I had the same cancer that you have.’ This Marine talked about the spiritual resources he had to lean upon to get through his cancer. He said, ‘starvation or malnutrition will kill you before the treatment will.’ And as he talked, I watched my patient. It was like someone hooked him up to some strange life-support machine—he came alive as he listened; his eyes had a sparkle I hadn’t seen… And some 6 months later, he was out of that hospital and he was back at our command about to transfer to another command…
As I reflected upon what had happened, here I was with a PhD in psychology with all kinds of fancy theories, and there was NOTHING I could do to make an impact in this terrible situation of adversity, and a young man who had gone through something similar AND GOD HAD BROUGHT HIM THROUGH IT, was able to comfort this young Marine with the comfort that he had received… And I said, ‘wow, there definitely is a blessing in adversity.’ God takes us through the worst in order that we can share with others what He is able to do, His power to get us through the most difficult of life’s storms.” *
For the Christian, nothing is wasted… Even the waste places of our lives.
*taken from an interview on Janet Parshall-In the Market (January 16, 2012)