I have heard the term “desert” used to describe the seasons in our lives when we find ourselves faced with insurmountable obstacles…loneliness, fear, sickness, grief. When I imagine a desert, the images that come to mind are things like scorching heat, desperate thirst, and living things which are slowly dying. It’s a moment to moment existence. Sadly, those images don’t even begin to describe the way some people are feeling in the midst of the pain they are facing even now. A “desert” season is not something we would ever willingly step into if we could help it…but what do those times have to say about how God feels about us? About His love and care for us?
Deep in my heart I have come to truly believe that when we are in a desert of the soul, God still cares about what is going on with us. But even believing that, when we are in the middle of a desert, it is easy to feel far away from God. We believe He still cares as far as the big picture is concerned, but perhaps He’s just decided to be “hands-off” for a while. We have this idea that being near to God equals coming out of the desert.
Here’s what has caught my attention lately…I’m reading things like Hosea 2:14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her (God’s people), will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her…she shall sing there as in the days of her youth.”
The idea that sometimes God actually draws us, allures us, into the desert on purpose is an entirely different concept than thinking that when we get ourselves into a desert He will still care about us. I’m asking myself if maybe there are times when I am so distracted or so self-focused that the only way for Him to get close enough to my heart so that He can speak gentle words of comfort is to draw me into a desert…no distractions…no false sense of security to lean on…just me and Him. And the end result is our lives being revitalized and energized to the point of singing? Wow.
And Deut. 32:10-11 says, “He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” This doesn’t paint a picture of a God who cares but is far off. On the contrary it shows His intentional effort of knowing exactly where we are, surrounding us with His presence, protecting us, and “instructing” or speaking to us about what to do in the midst of our dilemma. The concept of being the “apple” of someone’s eye is the idea that you are close enough to see your own reflection in the pupil of their eye…that’s close.
Are deserts fun? No. Are they desirable? No. Are they full of God’s love and His presence? Absolutely. If you are in the middle of your very own desert, don’t lose hope. God does not only care but is actively pursuing you, encircling you, and keeping you safe. If you need to know what to do next, just pause a moment in the busyness of life to look into the eyes of the One who loves you. His up-close love is pretty unbelievable.