A while back I was discussing “spiritual deserts” with my daughter, and she said, “As you know, Moses was in the desert for 40 years. I know you’ve waited a long time for your dreams to come true, dad, but the desert can be a time of refreshing. I don’t think it’s meant to be a curse, I think it’s a time for us to rest in God, and learn from Him.”
Smart girl. Well, smart woman. A couple days later—ok it might’ve been a couple months afterward, who can tell?—I was talking to a co-worker about my struggles with having all this drive and determination, but not seeing anything happen.
I explained how difficult it’s been to live with dreams and visions the Lord gave me 30 years ago, and how disillusioned and tired I am. When she said, “Oh, burnout, huh?” I laughed and only half-jokingly said, “No, I was burned out five years ago. I don’t know WHAT you call this.”
This lady is one of those “encouragers” you want to keep in your inner circle, and related to me the following:
“During this challenging season, I want to remind you that I can clearly see God is ministering to your children through you and your wife. You are VERY successful in the area that means the most, which is raising a good, godly family. You are blessed. Your kids and grandkids are the best and foremost fruits of your ministry and life.
“Having said that, I am not patient and totally understand how difficult the season of waiting is. But as your friend, I want to let you know, your waiting season is beautiful because of the jewels he’s given you, namely your children and grandchildren. You and your family are such blessings to others!! Keep it up, brother!!!”
And her smile is just as warm as her uplifting words. Would that everyone had a friend like that. Those words made my week.
This morning I did a Google search for “spiritual lessons in the desert,” and was more surprised than I should have been at how much has been written on the subject. So rather than rehash the spiritual lessons Moses learned—since this has been addressed by writers much more theologically adept than me—I perused an article about “how to survive in the desert.” It was entitled Desert Survival: 8 Simple Tips That Could Save Your Life (https://www.seeker.com/).
With this blog, I tried to look at the subject a different way, and take real tips from an expert on surviving the desert, and then relate them to my personal life. I combined a few of the tips, to save time and space.
This isn’t just referring to wearing a hat, but also protecting your body from the crippling sun, and seeking shelter from the frigid temperatures at night. It’s just as important to stay warm at night as it is to keep your skin covered during the heat of the day.
“But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind. (2 Thessalonians 3:3 TLB, emphasis added)”
When Satan was speaking with God about Job, the Devil even noted the Lord’s protection of His people: “Haven’t You encircled him with Your very own protection, and not only him but his entire household and all that he has? (Job 1:10a VOICE, emphasis added)”
The way we stay “covered” during our own desert season is by keeping our eyes on Christ, and letting Him build a wall, a hedge of protection, around us. While the enemy of our soul is doing everything he can to destroy our faith, the desert season is actually meant to strengthen us, and teach us to rely on God, even when nothing else makes sense.
I liken drinking water, and the next point regarding eating, to staying close to God in prayer and Bible reading, and finding an encouraging and uplifting church family. When traversing the hot sands of the desert, you’re not going to make it long without drinking water. Likewise, you’re not going to survive your spiritual desert without staying close to the Lord.
“Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved. (1 Peter 2:2 GNT)”
You must eat, even when you don’t feel like it, to keep up your strength, but you don’t want to consume unhealthy foods.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6 NIV)”
I know from experience how easy it is to get disillusioned and turn your back on God during the desert. Keeping your vision in the forefront of your mind, however, is necessary for survival. Write it on the walls of your spirit (and maybe even your prayer room), and determine you won’t quit until it comes to fruition, no matter how long it takes.
Keep Your Cool
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:10 MSG, emphasis added)”
Keeping your cool when trapped in the desert can save your life. Like Tom Hanks said in Apollo 13, you can go bouncing off the walls for 10 minutes but you’re just going to end up back in the same place with the same problems.
Now, this is hard to do when it seems NOTHING is happening with the dreams and visions you’ve carried for so long, but it’s imperative you do your best to stay calm and trust God. I say this from experience, because, believe me, there were PLENTY of times I went “bouncing off the walls for 10 minutes.”
But God is faithful, and He’s never late.
“The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. (2 Peter 3:9 GNT)”
Make Your Mark
When traversing the hot, desert sands, leave evidence you were there, like pieces of unnecessary clothing pinned to or tied around stationary objects, or notes with your name on them. This is not only so people will know you’re there and be able to follow the evidence and find you, but to keep you from going on circles, since disorientation is common in the desert.
“Don’t go in circles” can be translated as “learn from your past,” I think.
“So watch what you do! Be careful with your very life! Don’t forget the things you saw with your own eyes, and don’t let them fade from your memory. Remember them your whole life; teach them to your children and your grandchildren (Deuteronomy 4:9 VOICE)”
Once you’ve been down a certain path, and are really trying to learn from your mistakes, things will begin to look familiar when you find yourself getting back into that same territory again.
Additionally, “leaving notes or markers,” in my mind, is likened to reaching out for help. It only HURTS you when you continue to tell those around you that “everything is great,” when you feel like dying. Humble yourself and reach out for help!
Remember, the desert experience is all about growing in Christ, but you must learn from your mistakes, and allow others to give you assistance when needed.
Keep Your Mouth Shut
The author writes, “(K)eep your mouth closed to slow the rate of dehydration from your breathing. Covering your mouth with a bandanna or a piece of clothing will also help to slow the water loss*.”
So it seems the more you run your mouth, the quicker you run out of steam.
Maybe the desert experience should be more about listening than about complaining, eh?
Again, I’m guilty of this, which is why I’m passing this on to others, in the hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes.
“And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them. (Ephesians 4:29 TPT)”
The desert is a time of refreshment and growing. It’s a quiet time of reflection and development. While the Devil will tell us we’ve been abandoned, the reality is, God is using this time to construct the warrior we will need to be in order to fight our future battles.
So while you’re waiting for God to bring your dreams and visions to life, try and rest in Him. I fully understand how difficult this is, but it’s totally doable. You’re not meant to DIE out in the desert, you’re meant to GROW.
Sculpture: “Angel in the Desert” – by Marcus Eriksen.