by Chad Wells
PORTAGE, MI – You've seen the scene: the camera sweeps across vast desert terrain, following a solitary track, zooming in on the lonely struggler. "Water, water," he says, crawling through the desert sands crying through parched lips, "Water..."
Perhaps you've found yourself in a similar struggle. You wander, calling out for what is so desperately needed, but as yet unseen. You wait, searching for illusive answers as you traverse a desert of the soul. "Why am I here?" "Where is God?" "What is the meaning of this mess?" You believe, but the underlying unbelief challenges your perseverance, if not your faith itself.
Spiritual deserts have a way of drawing us inward. The big picture gets lost as self begins to dominate the landscape. Confusion. Isolation. Loneliness. Temporary circumstances seem eternal. Momentary inconveniences seem insurmountable. Remembrance of past provision fades. The reality of ever-present help is forgotten.
Consider the story of Israel. An enslaved people, desperate for deliverance, brought out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Yet, the same generation that was given incontrovertible evidence of God's presence and power failed to walk faithfully in the wilderness. There they groaned for a return to the land of their burden, longing for the predictable life of oppression over the vulnerability of dependence. With each complaint their hearts hardened. With each groan, their conclusions become clear: the God that would lead them to the desert could not be trusted.
To be clear, they were in the desert, but they were never deserted. The Lord was present in the cloud by day and the fire by night. His power and provision were seen at every turn. The mountain quaked with the weight of His glory. From the tent of meeting to the tabernacle, the Lord was with His people. Rocks brought forth water. Manna rained like dew. Meat was miraculously provided. Yet, the sojourners complained, failing to recognize the greatest blessing of the desert. God was with His people Israel.
You may be in the desert, but you are not deserted. He has promised to never leave or forsake you. To those who thirst, He gives springs of living water. To the hungry, the Bread of Life. The desert is never easy, but it is not a curse. If anything, the desert makes clear our need to die to self. It reveals our own insufficiencies, and highlights our need for our Shepherd to lead us home. Will you learn in the desert what a generation of Israelites failed to grasp? Will you look past your own circumstances and comfort, and see that He is with you? Will you trust His leadership and love as He walks with you through the shadowed valley?
Look up and remember. Depend on and trust. He is faithful. He is with you. You are not deserted in this desert. He is leading you home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chad Wells is the pastor of First Baptist Church-Portage and AMS for the South Central Baptist Association.