A Desert Soul

It has been two months and 17 days since I last wrote. There have been many days in that time frame where I had my computer lying on my lap while I stared blankly at my word document and watched the space bar flicker…If only words would come to my finger tips. There was no inspiration. There was no motivation. There was just me and an endless scramble of disconnected vague thoughts. I struggled to adequately put into words what was going on in my heart and my head.

Since becoming a believer of Jesus Christ, I have encountered moments with the Lord where he invades my heart, answers my deepest prayers and makes himself known to me through rich intimacy. In these seasons, God lavishes me in his steadfast love and reveals his miraculous power to me. He wins my trust and I fall more in love with him. My faith grows strong, and joy and passion exude within me. In these moments, more than ever, I believe all that God says he is and all that God says he does.

Then, there are seasons that feel long, daunting and unclear. These seasons can look different for all of us. Often times in this season, it is the chaos and heartache of life that is all-consuming, which will typically leave us drowning in broken expectations and disappointment. For others, this season feels meaningless, where the weight and hopelessness of our own sin is what leaves us feeling defeated and lost. Or perhaps, it is those arid seasons where we are wandering through the desert thirsty and alone. I struggle to understand seasons like these. They confuse me and sometimes break my faith.

For weeks now, I have felt as if I have been wandering through the desert….weary, thirsty and alone. At times, I have felt forgotten by God. My intimacy with Jesus has been dry and his voice has been quiet. Loneliness in the midst of my sinful struggles has tempted me to separate myself from community, running from vulnerability and honesty with those that are close to me. I have found myself frustrated because when I look at my life, a lack of joy and intimacy with Jesus doesn’t make sense. I have a loving, patient and kind husband. My family is incredibly supportive. I love my job. I have an amazing church and have grown so much in my understanding and knowledge of who God is. I am greatly aware of my sin and my need for a Savior. I have rich, intimate friendships. On the outside my life is good and blessed, but on the inside I am screaming for help and no one can hear me.

I struggle to understand seasons like these. They confuse me and sometimes break my faith.

I am tired emotionally, physically and spiritually, which propels me to lack compassion and grace towards others. At times, I find myself so alone and hopeless when I consider the weight of my own depravity and sinful struggles. I wander through this desert and find myself profoundly aware of my need to be helped and rescued…my need to be saved. As I wander, I hope that I will run to the throne of God and trust that he really will rescue, redeem and help me to believe that he has already reconciled me to himself. I need Jesus to help my unbelief. I am desperately in need of a Savior…Jesus Christ. He is the only one who will rescue me from myself, who will birth hope in my hopelessness and who will never fail me. We think that we have it harder than Jesus did. We think that no one understands our pain, suffering, loneliness or hopelessness. We couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus suffered and died on the cross, bearing the weight of our sin and setting us free from the enslaving power of sin over our lives. We are nothing without him. No means of measure can ever define God’s limitless love. He is enduringly strong and he is eternally steadfast. He is the sinner’s savior and the hope of the world. He sympathizes and he saves. He strengthens and he sustains. We need Jesus.

I am desperately in need of a Savior.

In these dark, desert-like seasons, I often find it difficult to seek the throne of God. Slowly, I find myself feeling and believing that my prayers are in vain and wonder if they really mean anything. I want to believe that God is all-satisfying, sovereign and that he IS the HOPE of the world, but my soul is divided at times. I know in my head the truth of God, but I don’t believe it in my heart. I am perplexed as to why God allows dark, dry, weary and/or quiet seasons in our lives. These seasons only lead me to question what I believe about God. I find myself crying out to the Lord and pleading with him over these disorienting seasons, “How much longer before you allow me to experience your joy? This season has left me so tired. How much longer I will I be here? When will you draw near to me?”

Psalm 43 says,

“Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

God even uses our mistaken and wrongful beliefs in dark and arid seasons to draw us to himself.

The psalmist uses such intense vocabulary to fully articulate the deepest emotions of his loneliness and lack of belief. Even though God has not forsaken him, everything about the psalmist’s life forces him to draw the conclusion that God has, an emotion I can empathize with. The beauty in this Scripture is that God even uses our mistaken and wrongful beliefs in dark and arid seasons to draw us to himself.

I am encouraged by this Scripture because the psalmist teaches us how to face our divided souls. The psalmist speaks to God expressing his desire for God to not only lead him out of the trouble he faces, but more specifically to lead him to God himself. He recognizes God as his “exceeding joy.” When we encounter difficult seasons, we especially need God to point us closer to himself because of how prone we are to our own sinful nature. Otherwise, we will often find ourselves using our sin and false hope to fulfill our need for peace and joy. John Piper comments on these verses and says “He is praying for spiritual light. It’s not physical light. Physical light helps physical eyes see physical reality. Spiritual light lets spiritual eyes—the eyes of the heart—see spiritual reality. And see it for what it is, namely, beautiful. So he is praying that God would rescue him not from his enemies but from a far more dangerous enemy: a darkness that causes the world to look much more attractive than it is and causes the greatness and beauty of God to fade out of sight.”

Putting our hope in the things of the world will only create an illusion of reality and truth. We need a greater desire for God to draw us towards his light and his truth, so that we find our hope in him and him alone. Those who are united in Christ by faith can anticipate the same path of “hope in God” as the psalmist experiences. In dry and weary seasons, it is so easy to find our hope in ourselves, relationships, sex, security, etc. We need to preach the Gospel to our souls and speak to God about our discouragement, especially when we find ourselves in despair. We need to embrace these seasons as God’s beautiful work in and through us, and stop allowing our circumstances to dictate what we believe about God.

Perhaps, this season is meant to be rested in and not rushed through?

Although these seasons may feel unapplauded, uncelebrated and unproductive, time is never wasted. These seasons are sacred. In my current “desert-like” season, all I want to do is rush through it and get it over with. Perhaps, this season is meant to be rested in and not rushed through? The desert awakens and sustains a deeper desire for the presence and work of God in and through us. The desert teaches us how to rely fully on God as our only source of hope and satisfaction. The desert offers unrecognized riches if we take the time to SEE them. The desert is a refining place where God purifies our faith and reveals to us our greater need for his saving grace. Perhaps, these dry and dark seasons are the “surprising birthplace of spiritual greatness.” -Alicia Britt Chole

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