Years ago, I lived in Arizona. I never adapted to the climate and I cannot understand the “desert rats” that adore the 118-degree weather. I hated the heat and missed the beauty of tall oak and maple trees. I was born in Michigan and for sixteen years I enjoyed and welcomed each distinct season, especially spring. Arizona seemed to have only two seasons: Summer and winter. And in my mind, the winters were just an extended summer with lukewarm temperatures.
The xeriscaped yards absent of all grass but filled with prickly pear cactus were not my idea of paradise. I yearned for a new setting. I lived through a very dark time when I was a desert dweller. I lost a brother in a mountain climbing accident, a serious relationship that was leaning towards marriage ended abruptly, and my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. My days felt as dry and ugly as the scenery all about me.
“I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.” Hosea 13:5 (NKJV)
There are four seasons in a year and I was anxious to move out of my unhappy spiritual winter season. I longed for spring. I wanted moments filled with hopeful promises and spiritual seeds of growth.
Can someone remain permanently trapped in a spiritual desert, where no water flows and there isn’t any fruit for your labors?
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
“’For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”’ Deuteronomy 2:7 (NKJV)
No. The answer is no, so long as you remain tucked under the protective wing of Jesus. No labor of love done in the name of Jesus is without fruit. The enemy had succeeded in stealing my joy. Back then; sorrow was the pillow I rested my head upon. I was so overwhelmed with personal disappointments I fell into complacency. Waking from the sleepy deception the enemy had lulled me into took grace and the arm of God.
“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4 (NIV)
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1 (NKJV)
One day, I offered a very short but heartfelt cry for help. I asked my Savior for a season of spring. A fervent prayer always finds a way into the throne room of God. It is not the length of a prayer that matters. Eloquent words will not impress the Creator of the spoken language. Rather, God looks for a contrite and broken heart, one that is ready to accept His will and trust that His promises are faithful.
“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14 (NKJV)
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16 (NKJV)
In my moment of complete submission and brokenness, I sensed an answer to my prayer. God had granted a new spiritual season… Springtime! I rejoiced in this hopeful assurance and watched for things to change. My pillow of sorrow was soon replaced with a pillow of hope.
So, I waited. I waited and watched with expectancy. But the springtime I had imagined was very different from the springtime God had designed. There were no green forests with flowers smiling as far as the eye could see. No, my springtime was still in the desert.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
“I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” Isaiah 41:18 (NKJV)
“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah 35:1 (NKJV)
There was a very basic lesson God wanted me to learn. A lesson that only time in a desert wilderness could teach. So, what was this lesson? Like so many truths of God, it was simple and pure. Beauty exists in every season and every destination God places His children, we need only to look for the virtue and benefit.
The eyes of my heart opened. The scales of hopelessness that had grown over my spiritual eyes fell away with this Holy Spirit revelation. I still prefer green forests to desert landscapes, but beauty is in everything God creates.
Slowly, God revealed the growth within my spirit. This growth surprised me. I thought I had been slumbering during my spiritual winter. As with plants, we also need a winter season. Winter is a time to rest and sit at the feet of Christ. It is a time to lay aside the busyness of life and fellowship with God, focusing on our relationship with Him. It is a necessary season for all believers. From this time, we build up strength for the spring planting, summer crop tending, and fall harvest. It increases our perseverance, patience, and trust in God. Our spiritual muscles are exercised during times of adversity and loss. We do not always have to be busy with multiple ministries to be a productive child of God.
“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42 (NKJV)
Although His 40 days in the desert was a designated time of testing, Jesus grew stronger from the experience. It was a necessary season because it fortified Him for what lay ahead. His lonely desert existence took place right before He entered full-time ministry. It prepared the Son of God for what He must endure in order to fulfill His Father’s will.
Jesus understands what it means to be thirsty. He understands our desire for springs of water that rejuvenate. If you are presently in a desert wilderness, remember Christ is with you and He promises good things to come. Look for beauty in your day, because it is there! When you discover a flash of loveliness and grace, praise Him. As you continue searching for beauty in unlikely places, you will discover an attitude change. Contentment flushes out all bitterness and turns weeping into dancing.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11 (NIV)
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NKJV)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)