Desert Diary #3
We're experiencing quite the phenomenon over in our neck of the woods here in Texas. If you live anywhere remotely close to the coast, you'll be driving along asking yourself, "Is there a fire? Did the smog suddenly become depressingly visible? Or are my sunglasses just super smudged?" No, none of the above. This haze we're experiencing is dust blown more than 5,000 miles across the Atlantic from the Sahara Desert in Africa.
That is surreal. I'm looking out the window at a hazy grey, what should be a blue 9 am sky, here at camp, and it's just mind blowing to think that this dust was once in the renown, rough and tumble Sahara Desert. It is all quite mysterious for me personally, because in the last two days I've done a lot of reading and thinking about desert seasons. I've written about them here before (post #1 and post #2), but honestly, as my personal desert season has continued to linger on, I've quit writing about it and just been quiet. But today, with this Saharan haze suspended above, it just feels right to write.
There is so much I could say about desert seasons in life, but today I'll keep it simple and brief. Seasons of spiritual wilderness, waiting, wandering, whatever you want to call it, can be painful and difficult. Often such seasons can stir questions of doubt and why God? I think to a normal human, this is logical. Naturally, when things start to get weird, we stop and think, "Okay, what's going on here?" I believe this pause is one of the beginning steps God wants of us in a desert season.
Right now, I'm reading a book about Moses that Chuck Swindoll wrote, and it's absolutely amazing. In a chapter I just finished, Swindoll narrows in on Deuteronomy 32:10-12. I don't know what your desert season looks like or what you're going through, but regardless, the following is true:
He found them in a desert land,
in an empty, howling wasteland.
He surrounded them and watched over them;
He guarded them as He would guard His own eyes.
Like an eagle that rouses her chicks
and hovers over her young,
so He spread His wings to take them up
and carried them safely on His pinions.
The Lord alone guided them;
they followed no foreign gods.
The italics are mine - I wanted to make those phrases stick out. This passage is referring to how God acted on behalf of the Israelites during their 40 year desert season (they literally wandered through and lived in a desert for 40 years following their exodus from captivity in Egypt). This portion of scripture comes from a song Moses sang over the people right after Joshua becomes their leader (Joshua will be the one to lead the nation to the Promise Land). Moses sings that in the desert God did 4 things for the Israelites. And today, briefly, I want to say that God is doing the same for you in your desert.
1. He surrounds you.
If you've been in a season of wandering, you know it can be incredibly lonely and isolating. Actually, in the book, Swindoll says that isolation is a really important part of the desert. When every day feels like a losing fight against whatever hardship this season has brought upon you, it is incredibly easy to believe that God has abandoned you. Not so. He has surrounded you. He is all around you - on every side. He is with you in the isolation, Immanuel. But not only is he with you, surrounding you, He is watching over you and guarding you.
#2. He watches over you and guards you.
If you feel God has abandoned you, it is easy to believe He is no longer watching over you and protecting you. I get it. The wilderness presents an every day battle against the lie that God is not good or faithful. But, have you ever considered that this wilderness season is God doing just that, watching over and guarding you? Perhaps in a way we can't understand, this season is the very thing we need most. In a way we can't fathom, this time is God caring for us more than He ever has in the past. Not a day is wasted with the Lord. His law is perfect, reviving the soul. His statues are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7) I believe this time of struggle, this desert, is God watching over and guarding you in a way so intense and loving you wouldn't believe Him if He told you all He is doing on your behalf. You couldn't ask for or imagine the beautiful things He will do through this time in the wilderness.
#3. He carries you.
You're exhausted and disillusioned and every night you fall into bed at the end of your ability to go on. He is carrying you. When your feet fail you and you don't have the strength to move, He picks you up and carries your feeble frame. Look for this. In my wilderness, this has looked like daily bread. Like tiny, perfectly portioned provisions to get me to tomorrow. I'll be utterly at the end of myself and He shows up, right on time, with a love note to tell me He's got me, that He's carrying my heart in His hands, and that He'll bring me home. He doesn't give me any answers or tell me when this time will end, He just tells me He's near, and I've learned that even at the end of myself, that's really all I need. More than answers to my questions or guidance or and end to my desert season, I really just need to know that He is carrying me.
#4. He guides you.
Perhaps you feel directionless. You have no idea where to go to get out of this pressing, yet wholly purposeful, desert season. He guides you. He will give you the daily bread you need to continue trusting. And, when the time is right, He will give you the direction you need to walk on. I believe this will be the last thing He does, because it will mean the waiting is over and it's time for you to enter the next season, the Promise Land, if you will. But don't rush to this step. He will give you the steps you need when it is time. No day is wasted with the Lord. If you don't know His guidance yet, then you don't yet need it.
So my encouragement to you? Enjoy the desert. It truly is a time for romance. He surrounds you, watches and guards, carries and guides you. You have no reason to fear. He is near. Enjoy this season because it is important, even necessary. What do you gain from seasons of lack? Abundance. To understand this, you must experience it. Enjoy the dust, enjoy the barrenness, enjoy and thank God for every moment of waiting. Praise God every night, as the Saharan sun sets on your desert season, because you know He's with you, making the barren beautiful, and this too shall pass.
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