A note from Janet: One of my great blessings in 2020 was the addition of Trace Kennedy to our ministry team. Trace is the Brand Manager for the JanetDenison.org brand and has been an invaluable asset as we expand the outreach of our ministry. Trace will be guest writing for my blog for a couple of weeks while I am away. I know you will enjoy her thoughts. Thank you, Trace, for everything you do!
The evidence of spring is everywhere in central Texas, with a heavy emphasis on green and yellow. (As a Baylor parent, I like to think it’s a shoutout from God to the Baylor Bears’ basketball championship title.)
I have to admit, I’m embracing this spring with a deeper gratitude than in years past. The weeklong winter storm of Texas was enough to make me beg not just for warmer temps, but hot temps!
Soon enough, the mild temperatures of spring we’re enjoying will be replaced with the blazing heat of summer. Streets and sidewalks will appear wavy, the new, fresh foliage of spring will be limp and tired, and regular walkers will resemble their panting dogs. The once welcoming enthusiasm of summer will be replaced with the longing for more refreshing, fall-like temperatures.
Inevitably, seasons outlast their welcome, and most of us are always ready for the refreshing or relief that comes with the season that follows.
AN EMPTY NEST LED TO EMPTINESS
Spiritual seasons are similar.
In recent months, I have come through a summer, or “desert,” season in my faith walk. A few years ago, when God led me into it, I reveled in the “sweat” that was involved, knowing that the Holy Spirit was moving in me, changing my direction, and shifting my purpose.
When my last child went off to college, and I became an empty nester, I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of time and not a whole lot to do from a meaningful standpoint. At first, I embraced it, excited to see what God was going to do with me. But then, the waiting and wondering led to wandering.
It’s easy to get discouraged when it seems like God isn’t answering, doesn’t it?
Where in your life do you feel like God may be stonewalling you? Maybe it’s in situations, circumstances, or relationships you have prayed about, yet it seems as if God isn’t answering, or really even listening.
We’ve all had seasons that start out full of promise and new beginnings, only to stagnate and foster discouragement, impatience, and restlessness.
JESUS NEEDED GOD’S RESTORATION, AND SO DO WE
I’ve been studying Luke 4:1–13 extensively for the past several weeks, researching the temptations of Jesus for a work project. My initial thought was how easily Jesus fended off Satan’s attacks. Reading just those verses, resisting the devil genuinely seems like a walk in the park for Jesus despite his physical hunger from forty days without food or water, his emotional fragility due to desolation and isolation, and his spiritual battle to glorify God by remaining in his perfect will.
But Matthew’s gospel reveals something crucial to Jesus’s desert experience that Luke doesn’t mention. Matthew 4:11 says, “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Here, Scripture points out clearly that resisting the Enemy wasn’t easy for Jesus; in fact, it was so difficult he needed divine help to recover and be restored. God allowed the hard time in the desert to show us that Jesus was strong enough to withstand what the Enemy threw his way, but Jesus didn’t do it without being depleted. Before Jesus left the desert and returned to Galilee to begin his Spirit-powered ministry (Luke 4:14), God had to refuel and refresh him.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of God’s tender love for us?
He wants us to know that when we walk through the desert seasons of life, experiencing scorching days where we become like wilted plants oppressed by the heat, we are going to need a divine refreshing—not relief the way the world relieves, which is temporary and unsubstantial, but Spirit-powered sustenance that strengthens and endures and readies you for what he is calling you to do.
THE DESERT JOURNEY
For over two years, God allowed me to walk, sometimes stumble, and oftentimes crawl through a desert season. Frequently, I took matters into my own hands, believing that my way was a more comfortable and convenient way to where I thought he wanted me to go, only to end up deeper in the desert and even more desperate for relief.
Isn’t that just like human nature? We seek out our versions of a mirage, hoping it’s the oasis we are looking for. We pursue short-term solutions, make impulsive decisions, or seek worldly comforts thinking they will give us long-term relief and direction.
But, in reality, worldly resolutions fade quickly and can often leave us feeling unworthy, hopeless, restless, and frustrated. In desert seasons, it’s so easy to relate to Paul in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” When we are exhausted, thirsty for something satisfying, and hungry for genuine spiritual food, why do we tend to seek our own solutions instead of God’s?
Much like the Israelites who wandered around and around in the desert, I felt like God had me in this holding pattern with no clear exit plan. After sharing this thought with a wise friend, she told me that I was perfectly positioned to receive God’s replenishment and ultimately his plan—not the world’s. In that moment, I realized I was doing the exact opposite of what Jesus had done in his desert time: focusing on the Father, trusting in the strength of his word, and relying on him to meet all of his needs.
EXCHANGING MY WILL FOR HIS
When I stepped into faith, humbly surrendered my will to his, and began walking obediently behind him, the Lord restored my soul.
My former pastor has often said that the most miserable people he knows are believers living outside the will of God. Is it because we choose to settle in the desert, preferring temporary relief through worldly comforts? Relief and departure from the heat only came when I chose the restoration that only Jesus can supply.
When we position ourselves to receive all God wants to give us, God is able to bless our lives and use us for his divine purpose and plan. My former Sunday school teacher and longtime Bible study teacher has continually instilled that truth in me over the last fifteen-plus years. And over and over, I have seen this truth played out in my life.
Never would I have imagined that one day she would be my boss and that I would be working for a ministry that has been instrumental in my spiritual training and maturity.
OUT OF THE DESERT, READY TO SERVE
This last year of COVID has been a long and trying season.
Many of us are probably weary from battling the extreme ups and downs, and we are parched for fellowship and hungry for anywhere but home! This year may have left you feeling anxious, lonely, depressed, or worried. Maybe you ate too much, drank too much, watched too much TV, or spent hours wandering on social media. In the moment, those solutions probably offered some level of comfort and relief, but they ultimately just created more dissatisfaction and a thirst for something more enduring.
I pray that as you make plans to embark and enjoy this much anticipated season without all the restrictions COVID created, you will first allow God to tend to those places of your heart in need of refreshing. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus walked out of his desert time, restored and replenished by his Father, and entered into his calling that changed the world. Because of his high calling, we as believers now have the very same power that God gave him indwelling us.
When we surrender to his divine plan and choose to follow him in humble obedience, he truly is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21).