Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lessons in the Desert … Don’t Miss Them

May 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

I was twenty-one years old and staring at the white lines going past me down the center of the road. They were moving fairly slowly and seemed to never end. But I wasn’t driving in a car. I was on a bicycle along with thirty other college students riding from coast to coast.

I wondered if I’d made a wise decision by agreeing to join a group that was going to pedal over 2000 miles from San Diego to Savannah, Georgia. We had gotten up at 4:30 the last few mornings so we could ride a number of hours before the worst heat of the day. Then we would rest for awhile only to climb back onto our bikes and ride until almost dark.

We were in the middle of the desert and it was not fun.  We would fill our water bottles with ice and it would turn to warm water within minutes. Our bodies were getting into shape riding some 100 miles a day, but the desert was draining every ounce of energy we could muster.

I’ve never forgotten that trip. It was incredible in many ways. But I also know that those days in the desert were some of the toughest of the trip.  The heat, the loneliness, the sameness of it all had a way of stealing any motivation we had to keep going.

It was much like life can be. We can be flying down our most recent mountain-top experience or admiring the beauty of life’s countryside and all of a sudden we’re in this barren place. How did we get here, we ask, and how much longer must we stay?  We wonder why God would have allowed us here in the first place.

Are you in a desert place right now?  If so, you’re in good company.  That’s where Jesus spent some time, remember? Forty days, as a matter of fact. And rather than God coming along and giving him a palm tree or oasis for some needed rest, He allowed Satan a front row seat in which to tempt him even more.

So what do you do with your desert experience, the current one, or perhaps the one you’ll have next week or month or year?  Let’s learn from Jesus.

First of all embrace it.  No, I’m not suggesting you’ll like it but accept that it’s where you must be for a time. Remember that you’re probably not there because of something you did wrong or God is somehow punishing you. More likely you’re in a dry place because of circumstances that you had little to do with or God wants to teach you something valuable.

Second, be more thankful.  I remember on our bike trip longing for the next little town or gas station or rest break so that I could get off the bike and refresh a little.  And I found that a cup of cold water, an icy drink or a small café with air conditioning had never felt so good. I began to appreciate so many things that I rarely thought about as blessings in my everyday life.

Suddenly, First Thessalonians 4’s admonition to In everything, give thanks became a reality.

Third, speak the Word into your desert place. Jesus said that the truth would make us free and in the desert we need the truth more than anything. What did Jesus do each time Satan tempted him to illegitimately fix His predicament?  He quoted Scripture back at Satan.  A Southern Gospel song lyrics once suggested, I hear you’re into the Word . . . but is the Word into you?

Nothing makes the Bible come more alive than when we’re at our neediest and we see God’s truth take shape in everyday life. And if you’re not in a habit of learning and memorizing Scripture now would be a great time whether you’re in a desert or not.

Fourth, remember that the desert time will end.  I’ll never forget the green spaces that we finally saw after our desert experiences.  No they didn’t show up all of a sudden but rather we saw the landscape slowly change. But before long we realized we had totally left the dryness and were in the lush greenery of the South.

Sometimes life will work the same way. We will one day have our eyes opened and see that God has been slowly moving us into greener pastures and that life seems fuller again. You’ll start smiling more, feel more energized and believe again that God has meaning and purpose for your life.

In the meantime, let some people walk through the desert with you. On our trip we road in packs of six so that we could take turns leading and breaking the wind for one another. I don’t know how a person would ever make that trip alone. Don’t face your desert by yourself either.

But also don’t miss the things you might have never seen or learned anywhere else. The deserts in most parts of the world have their own special beauty if we’ll stop long enough to see it. And God will give you little glimpses of more to come if you’ll go slowly and in faith.

God has promised to be at his best in our weakness.  The desert is one of those places where you have opportunity to see Him work His best in you. Keep riding.

 

Gary is the Director of ACFcares at Austin Christian Fellowship in Austin, Texas and also serves as one of the teaching pastors. He and his wife Jackie have been married 35 years. He loves the mountains, travel, writing and music. He also writes two blogs, one called Safe At Home and the other Never Quit Climbing.

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