“This is what the Lord says…‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland…I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Isaiah 43:16, 18-20
The typical view of a desert is a scorching hot and desolate land, uninhabitable, offering only hardship and extreme discomfort to anyone attempting to traverse the barren wasteland. The Bible, on the other hand, often portrays the desert as a sacred place for intimate relationship with God. The desert teaches the faithful that the only way to overcome this brutal environment is through a greater dependency on the heavenly Father.
Biblical examples of desert experiences are numerous. Abraham and Sarah were nomads in the desert where they found God’s plan for their lives. Elijah and Elisha both went into the desert to find God’s answers for the difficulties they faced in dealing with the moral crises of their time. Moses spent 40 years in the desert in preparation for leading God’s chosen people Israel from their bondage in Egypt. John the Baptist lived in the desert where God instructed him on the need for repentance of sins and baptism. Jesus himself spent 40 days in the desert in preparation for His public ministry and death on the cross.
The paradox between the natural and spiritual aspects of the desert can symbolize our journey through the season of Lent. The world sees Lent as time of sacrificing the enjoyable pleasures of life. They view Christians as having to suffer by “giving up” things they normally would find enjoyable. They do not see Lent as a time of hope, healing and restoration to God the Father through His Son’s sacrifice at Calvary. Lent is a time to get away from the distractions of the world to discover the blessings of a greater intimacy with God. God is calling His children out of the world to spend time in relationship with Him.
“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” 1 Chronicles 22:19
In spite of God’s provision and protection in the desert, the Israelites grumbled and complained about their circumstances. Each time they would stray from God, He would meet their needs, strengthening them so they could continue their journey. So it is with you on your journey through the desert of marital discord. God is with you in the desert, to strengthen and renew you, so that you may continue the journey.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The desert journey takes us away from the normal flow of life so that we can spend time examining ourselves and our walk with God. Hardships and difficulties challenge us to look into our very being and our willingness to totally trust God with all our cares and concerns. Just as the Israelites reacted to hardships with doubt and complaints, we too find it difficult to stay close to God in the midst of our hardships. Just as God sent the Israelites water and manna in the desert to sustain them on their journey to the Promised Land, God has sent us Jesus as the Bread of Life to strengthen and sustain us for our journey through this life to eternal life with Him in heaven.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert. No matter what Satan tried, Jesus remained faithful. He kept His eyes fixed on His Father in spite of hunger and the attempts of Satan to discourage Him from His mission. Where the Israelites failed to trust God, Jesus never gave into the temptation to despair. Where the Israelites grumbled and complained, Jesus only let the truths of God’s promises pass through His lips. Where the Israelites failed to trust in God’s providence, Jesus submitted Himself to His Father’s plan. Where the Israelites often took matters into their own hands, Jesus waited, trusted and endured. It is through the faithful of Jesus, that we too can endure the hardships of our desert experience.
“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:5
The desert is not a place as much as it is a spiritual experience meant to bring us to greater intimacy with God and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. By going out into the desert, we separate ourselves from the normal distractions of life so that we can look inward to evaluate our walk with the Lord. The difficulties and hardships of the desert experience challenges us to look into the depths of our souls to our willingness to trust God totally with our lives. The temptation to grumble and complain against God in our distresses moves us to seek His strength and encouragement for the journey. Alone in desert, we are faced with one simple question: Am I living the life that God wants me to live?
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19
I implore you to find some time in the next week to spend some quality time with God in the desert, seeking Him in the solitude, praying that He will renew you for the journey.
God bless you, O faithful man of God.
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quoted are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.