The funds continue to pour out over my career with no income coming back in yet. The postcards I mailed to bring in more opportunities have harvested nothing more than a few returned as undeliverable. I stand at the edge of what might be success, but cannot see the fruit of my years in the spiritual and vocational desert. After a long journey in the wasteland, sand dunes and hills of triumph can begin to look alike on the climb.
Will there be something new on the other side of this hike? And if we find something worth celebrating, will there be another drought to steal our joy?
In the natural and spiritual contexts, a desert can serve to test, benefit, or destroy life. We can suffer great trials in the extremes and meager resources of the arid spaces. Grappling with our character can help refine our faith if we don’t allow our mettle to fail us and surrender to let our frailty define our lives.
Temptation meets the best of us in the wasteland. Moses encountered his calling and the related fears of his ineptitude in the wilderness of banishment. Elijah survived a famine and his own despair while isolated from all but God. Jesus suffered his own testing in the outlands, far from the comforts and support of his true home. Each of them experienced excruciating trials during this period of testing, leaned upon the praise of God, and emerged to fulfill their divine purpose for the benefit of others.
Times of trial and drought make praising God our greatest challenge. And yet, in these times, rejoicing proves our greatest need. We face three life-threatening risks when in the spiritual desert. In each of these risks, we also have an opportunity to praise God and grow stronger in our purpose.
- We can perish from thirst.
- We can lose our way.
- We can stop moving forward.
Rejoice when thirsty.
If we rejoice in the place we least feel the distractions of world-centered happiness, we can meet the needs of our spiritual thirst instead of trying to quench our souls with the saltwater pleasures of the world. Our spirits thirst for living water, not earthly comforts. The living water of the presence of God fills us when we use the isolated moments and dry spells to pray. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus met God in the desert. Their communion with the Spirit and God’s word to them poured life over their parched, tested hearts.
Rejoice when distracted.
Moses, Elijah, and Jesus faced the enemy’s attempts to steer them off course from their divine purpose. We can easily get distracted by circumstances, the shouts of enemy lies, or distorted religious notions. In my own wilderness, I have found the business aspects of my calling a necessary resource of support, but also a place where I can become hyper-focused on the wrong things. It’s easy to lose our way in the wasteland and forget our purpose. Praise re-focuses our minds and souls on our calling. When we rejoice in who has summoned us forth, we can remember to let him direct us along the right path.
Rejoice to spur yourself onward, and resist the temptation to settle in discouragement.
After spending years of my life in an effort to journey out of the wasteland, I am tempted to doubt I could dwell anywhere but in the desert. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus could have collapsed in despair in their own desert spaces. When the trials or dry spells persist, the enemy can tempt us to believe we have no true homeland to hope for outside the desert. Instead of traveling through, we could be tempted to set up camp and die there. Rejoicing in the desert keeps us moving the way a theme song urges a sojourner to soldier onward. The Lord offers the supernatural ability to rejoice as a gift to those who seek him. If we ask for the Spirit to put praise into our hearts, he will equip us with the ability to praise God when we would otherwise remain unable to whistle. And this rejoicing in the one we seek will energize us to move through what we see toward the hope in what we cannot yet see.
In our ongoing battle against the wastelands of discouragement, let’s help one another remember to rejoice. We can set scripture before us as a mantra of encouragement to praise God while hoping in the success of divine dreams we have yet to fulfill.
As I read a passage of Habakkuk this morning, I recognized the bleak place from which its words were penned. The people had been oppressed and starved for a period far longer than I can imagine enduring from my comfortable, American setting. Under the tyranny of pagan enemies, God’s people faced a wasteland life in which they needed to make an intentional effort to rejoice.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
– Habakkuk 3:16-19, NIV
As these severely oppressed people of God received strength from rejoicing in the Lord, we can do the same in our modern wastelands.
How will you praise the Lord over your land of trials and testing? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. Let’s encourage one another during these days of enemy attacks and oppression so we can all press on through the desert and fulfill our divine destinies and thrive beyond the wilderness.
P.S. Don’t forget about this month’s opportunity to review Beautiful Warrior on a retailer site and get entered in the August review-a-thon! Just post a review and put the link in my Facebook page so I can submit you in the contest. The more reviews the book receives, the higher the prize will go. So, encourage your friends and followers to enter as well! Thanks and blessings in advance!