Sunday, July 22, 2007

The desert experience

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

A desert is a dry and hot place. It is a lonely place, where no one in their sound mind will ever want to stay there for long. There is barely any life in the desert as nothing can survive without water. The weather in the desert can be extremely hot in the day and cold during the nights. Sometimes travelers will get sand into their eyes and it can be painful.

At seasons in our lives we feel as if we are going through a desert experience, and we are. It is a time when it is as if we are so far away from God. We try hard to get connected with God only to find a huge wide vacuum between us and our Creator. We strive so hard to get a breath of His presence but we just cannot get to the surface of the overwhelming waters. We get weary of struggling and slowly, we decide to quit. We try to convince ourselves that we do not need the presence of God anymore, but in reality, there is still this deep longing and emptiness that only God can fill and satisfy.

A desert may not be a fun place to be in, but it is a place where many life’s lessons are taught. The desert is in fact a transition between our past and our future. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt (the past), He had to bring them to the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land (future). The desert is not the end of their journey, and they are not meant to stay in the desert forever; but it is a prerequisite to enter into Canaan.

When it was hard to find food and water in the desert, the Israelites complained to Moses and demanded to go back to Egypt where there is at least some food. They did not mind being under bondage; they just want to eat and drink. But had they forgotten the God who brought them out of Egypt? Did they not know that if God will go all the way to bring them out of slavery, He will provide them for their needs as well?

Physically we may never have to stay in a desert, but if you ever want to go far with God, you will have to go through a spiritual desert. The wilderness can be a very difficult place to be in, and like the Israelites, you may sometimes wish that God has not delivered you from the past. But it is during your ‘stay’ in the desert that you realize how important it is to have food to eat and water to drink. We always take the word of God (food) and His presence (water) for granted but you will learn to treasure them while in the desert. God will not let you die in the wilderness as He will definitely provide for you as He did for the Israelites.

The lessons taught in the desert are unique and cannot be learnt in other seasons. When there is nothing else around you, when the weather is hot and dry, when the nights are cold, when your eyes hurt, and most painfully, when it seems that you are all alone, it is not easy to hang on. The temptation to quit and go back to your Egypt is very real and that is why not many people can sustain the desert experience, and they miss out on God’s promises.

The desert can also be a very painful experience. There are times when the sun gets too hot or the wind gets too cold, and you thought how you can ever survive. Trials and circumstances just seem to drown you. And yet, it seems as if you are all alone.

How long you are going to stay in the desert depends on two possible factors: God and you. Maybe God has a bigger promised land for you and so your desert will be bigger. But your attitude while in the desert greatly determines how long you are going to stay there. Are you going to moan and murmur like the Israelites did, or are you going to give thanks to God and decide to make full use of this experience? The Israelites were not made to stay in the wilderness for forty years, but God made them wander there because of their attitude.

But if we will hang on, if only we will continue to worship when it seems as if God is not there, if only we will stand upon His promises, if we possess a right attitude while walking through the desert, I have got good news for you: the Promised Land is within your reach.

If you are in a desert, make use of this time and spend quality time with God in your closet. Continue to praise and worship God even when He seems silent. Thank Him for the promised land that is yet unseen, and He will bring you through it.

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