God always has a plan for the desert times in our lives. Most times we land there, God is simply providing us some down time, so that we can listen. Everyone experiences desert times, caused by any number of things. Last week I wrote about the desert seasons of our lives that are natural to our journey and the dry times God intends to use for our discipline and growth.
Today, I want to write about most of the desert times in our lives. A desert time is simply a quiet, often spiritually dry time in our lives.
Often we expect our earthly lives to be less challenging than they are. We have become a culture that expects our lives to be easier than God has promised. This is true of the Christian culture as well. We live in a period of time when many Christian leaders have said if we do A, then God will do B.
Beware of sermons that promise an easy life to those who walk closely with God. Biblical truth, like Romans 8:28, is that when we walk closely with God, he is with us in every circumstance and able to redeem those moments for our great good.
Paul had an un-removed thorn in the flesh. Peter was crucified upside down. John was exiled on the island of Patmos. All of us know strong Christians who have received a difficult diagnosis. Sometimes God’s saints struggle with a difficult child or an unhappy marriage. Sometimes we enter a desert because of our own choices, but most of the time our deserts exist as a normal part of our journey to heaven.
There are at least three types of deserts, and it is helpful to know why we are crossing through a dry time:
• Is this just a normal part of our earthly journey?
• Are we there because God wants to discipline and help us make changes?
• Or, has God provided the desert time for direction or deliverance?
THE DESERTS OF DIRECTION
Most of us live fast-paced, full lives. As we age, we tend to replace speed with routine. There are a lot of ways to move through our lives that cause us to program out the voice and leadership of God. We know to pray and seek God when things aren’t going well, but it’s often the regular, routine parts of our lives that cause us to live according to our own thoughts and ideas rather than God’s.
It’s no surprise that God would lead us to a desert so he can break our routine and cause us to seek his leadership. The best way to avoid a few of those deserts is to live our lives knowing we have a constant, daily need for his voice. We only think we know our schedules this week. When we made Jesus our Lord, we gave him permission to interrupt our routines any time, for his good purpose.
If our lives are simply a product of our routine choices, we should probably pack our bags for a stay in the desert. If God can’t direct our paths, he will probably direct us to the desert. We often quote Proverbs 3:5-6 but have we allowed God’s word to mean what it says?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). This verse is written in a Rabbinic teaching method. The second part of the sentence is a restatement of the first. Here is why that matters:
Trusting in the Lord with all our hearts means that we do not lean on our own understanding.
Picture yourself on a bridge, with rushing water underneath. Some parts of the railing are fragile while others are secure. Don’t we want the maker of the bridge to tell us which parts of the railing are safe to lean on?
In all our ways, if we acknowledge that God is perfect and we aren’t, then we will allow him to direct our path. The key to that verse is the word “all.” Sometimes the routines of life cause us to keep doing things like we have always done them. We direct our own paths along what is familiar instead of allowing God to lead.
GOD’S PLAN TO DIRECT YOUR PATH
If God can’t direct your plans each day, he will likely lead you to a desert place until you understand your need for his leadership. A day-to-day routine or a life that is too programmed and rushed doesn’t allow God to call you to his work – the work that matters eternally.
If our lives are full of things that matter, but not the things that matter most, God will want to provide us with new directions.
Is God re-directing your career path? Is God re-directing your daily routine? Is God re-directing your friendships? Is God re-directing your priorities? Sometimes the Lord just needs you in another place for a certain amount of time because he has a job for you to do. Sometimes the Lord turns our lives in a completely different direction.
He often uses the desert times in our lives to “direct our paths.” What should we do during that time? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your understanding.”
If a committee had put together a plan to move the Israelites into the chosen land it is almost certain the members of the committee would not have chosen to cross when the waters were flooded. They would have leaned on their own understanding. Interestingly, the reason the people of Jericho were terrified of the Israelites when they arrived is because they had already heard about the power of their God.
God’s ways are perfect, but if you look at the bulk of Scripture, God’s plans are often outside the scope of men’s natural, reasoned choices. If our lives are limited to our choices, we are limiting what God wants to do through our lives. His direction matters eternally for us and for our witness to others.
THE DESERTS OF DELIVERANCE
Finally I want to talk about the desert times we need, that God provides. There are more of these times in our lives than I think we realize. Have you become “weary in well doing?” Have you been through a time of great grief, loneliness, sickness or of great service to God?
Sometimes we come to a time when we need significant rest, and God provides us a desert of deliverance.
God created us to need rest and therefore he provides us the time to rest when we need it. I love the verse from the prophet Isaiah that says, “For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song” (Isaiah 51:3).
One of the most important lessons from our desert times of life is the knowledge that God walks them with us providing comfort and all we need until we come to a place of thanksgiving and praise. Our desert times have a beginning and an end. More importantly, our desert times have a good purpose.
WHAT DESERTS DO YOU REMEMBER?
To close, we should ask God to remind us of the desert times in our own lives. It was probably difficult to praise him at first, but what did you learn? How did God deliver you from that time? Isn’t it interesting that we most often remember what God taught us, rather than why those times were difficult?
I think that is what God would have us know as we exit the desert time labeled “COVID.” We should try to remember what God taught us during those days.
My favorite verse for the desert times is from the prophet Isaiah. He wrote, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
God is always redeeming our deserts for a new purpose in our lives. It has been tough, and now, for most of us, it isn’t. God is working to make himself known in this world. God is providing a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. A few years ago we prayed for God to end the drought and he did. A year ago we prayed for God to end the plague of COVID and he did.
What are you praying for today?
Our desert times have a purpose because they were part of God’s plan. When you enter a desert time– and you will– take the journey with God. He brought you to that time for a reason, and his promise is to redeem it for your good, if you will walk that desert with his good purpose in mind. (From Romans 8:28).
May your journey forward be blessed with the comfort of God’s presence. He is good; all the time.