A Scorched-Earth Wasteland
As I sit in my comfortable, over-stuffed, pink-patterned rocker chair, I find myself at a loss for words. As you may guess from my abundant use of adjectives in the previous sentence, this “loss of words” does not pertain to my beloved perch. No, this loss pertains to the subject about which I am writing, The Spiritual Desert. You see, I may be sitting on my favorite chair, but my chair and I find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a vast, dry, and unbearably quiet desert. Perhaps if I begin describing what my personal spiritual desert is like, the words will flow? Let’s give it a whirl.
My path in life has somehow taken me to a barren wasteland and I am surrounded by nothing but scorched earth. Each way I turn, the scenery doesn’t change. I am utterly lost and in desperate need of guidance, which is seemingly nowhere to be found. Not only do I feel completely alone and stuck in a hopeless situation, when I drop to my knees and cry out in prayer, it’s as if my desperate pleas vaporize into the scorching desert heat, never to be heard by my Father in heaven.
Heavy… to say the least.
Have you ever found yourself in a desert like mine? Have you been seeking your Heavenly Father for something in life and there is seemingly no answer, no direction, and no change in your circumstance? If your answer is a resounding “Yes,” pay special attention to the word “seemingly,” as situations are not always what they seem, and know that you are in plenty of good company.
5 Essential Questions for the Spiritual Desert
Now that my words are flowing, here are five essential questions to ask yourself to survive your own charming (said with copious amounts of sarcasm) spiritual desert.
1. WHO DOES GOD SAY HE IS?
The first question you must ask yourself in your barren season is, “Who is God?” It is VITAL in normal circumstances, let alone the spiritual desert, to understand God’s character and who He is to us. I would argue the best way to determine God’s attributes is to simply see what His Word says about Him. The verses you read below only scratch the surface of God’s character! They are simply the ones I felt most helpful while in the desert. Let’s dig in to a few Scriptures:
God is faithful: 2 Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful…”
God is compassionate, gracious and loving: Exodus 34: 6 “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”
God is good and forgiving: Psalm 86: 5 “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You.”
God is our strength, refuge and helper: Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
God is unchanging: Malachi 3:6 “I the Lord do not change.”
2. WHERE DOES GOD SPEND HIS TIME?
Now that you have a greater understanding of who God is, you should begin to ponder where God spends His time. In the spiritual desert, it is SO easy to feel completely abandoned by God. In the desert, feelings of loneliness can fill your heart as your prayers seem to go decades without response. Perhaps you are thinking, “What does it matter if God is good, loving, and faithful, if He isn’t even near me?” Don’t let this common lie steal God’s comfort from you! Let’s turn again to God’s Word:
Joshua 1:9 “… for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 34: 18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…”
Isaiah 41:10 “ So do not fear, for I am with you…”
Matthew 28:20 “And surely I am with you always until the very end of age.”
1 Corinthians 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are Gods’ temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
3. WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT ME?
So, now you know that God is your helper AND always with you. This is great news for those of us smack-dab in the middle of the desert heat. However, it gets even better! Just wait until you hear what God has to say about you! Understanding who God is allows you to trust in Him during tough times and understanding who you are to God gives the comfort and peace needed to endure. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation, God sees you as not only as His child, but a victorious co-heir with Christ! You know where we’re turning, so let’s get to it:
You are His precious possession: Isaiah 43:1 “I have called you by name; you are mine.”
You are His creation: Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”
You are His child: 1 John 3:1 “… that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
You are victorious: 1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You are blessed: Ephesians 1:3 “…who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Christ.”
You are beloved: Colossians 3:12 “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved…”
4. WHEN HAVE OTHERS BEEN IN THE SPIRITUAL DESERT?
It most certainly helps to know that others have been where you currently find yourself when going through difficult seasons. Spiritual deserts are no different! Many of the people God handpicked to build His kingdom and do great works (read “Biblical superstars”) have journeyed through the same wearisome desert where you currently reside. Who were some these people you ask? Read on to find out!
Jesus (Yes, God’s own Son): Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
Paul: 2 Corinthians 11: 24-27 (read all verses to learn of Paul’s many sufferings; this is just a snippet) “Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole day and a night adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys.”
Moses (He spent 40 years in the desert tending sheep and ANOTHER 40 years in the wilderness leading God’s people… talk about patience! Acts 7:30 and Numbers 32:13
David (hiding from Saul who wanted to take his life) 1 Samuel 23:14 “David stayed in the wilderness strongholds…”
5. HOW DO I GET THROUGH MY SPIRITUAL DESERT?
So, now you know that God is unchangingly good, and He is always with you. Not only that but you are His beloved, victorious child! And, as a bonus, you have read of other Biblical peeps, who have been through some tough spiritual deserts of their own. How do you apply all this good stuff? Well, believe it or not, I’ve got a list for that too!
PRAY even when you don’t feel anything. God is always present and listening to your prayers. Don’t fall for Satan’s lies that God is ignoring you. Don’t go by what you feel, go by what you know!
WORSHIP throughout your desert journey. Praising God for all He has done for you in the past is a wonderful way to be reminded of His unchanging faithfulness. Praising God for what He will accomplish through you in the future is a fabulous way to access the hopeful joy that is yours for the taking.
SURROUND yourself with other believers. Sometimes we just can’t believe for ourselves what God has promised. We are only human and in the midst of oppressing desert heat it can seem impossible to hold onto hope. That’s okay. That’s what fellowship is for. Reveal to your most trusted circle that you are struggling. Let them pray over you and remind you, as many times as you need, of God’s truths.
DEVOTE time to spend with God in His Word. Know this, the silence will be broken. Your desert will end. The only way to hear from God is to continue seeking Him. The best way to seek Him is to read His Word. He does some AMAZING revealing when you truly take time to get to know Him. And when He reveals a truth to you and you can see a glimpse of the oasis just beyond your current desert, your heart will be flooded with true hope.