Recently, with stinging tears running down her face, a dear friend of mine revealed that she had been trudging through a ‘desert of faith’ for some time. Most of us have been there. We have experienced those times in life when the flow of grace in us seems to diminish to a trickle before it dries up completely – or so we feel. There are times when we feel God is absent and not hearing or responding to us. Times when we shiver in the dark lost and confused and wonder if He has abandoned us.
Looking back on my own treks through the desert, the times when I felt alone in my pain were invariably the times when God was closest to me, doing His best work in my heart and mind. God doesn’t meet us for iced tea when we are sitting comfortably at the oasis, He meets us when we are face down in the hot sand. And when we feel we can’t hang on any longer, He holds on to us, smoothing out the rough spots on the road ahead. In the desert experiences in my life, I have found that when we love and trust in Him, He is always faithful and never forsakes us. So, if you are in the desert right now, take heart, whether you are aware of it or not, He is with you filling your present darkness with grace and light.
By now, most of you know my daughter, Meredith, is about halfway through her Asia trip. This latest picture from her – joyful in the desert – brought the verses of James 1:2-4 to life. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
When a parent dies, a child is ill or injured, a marriage falls apart, or a job is lost, joy is certainly not the feeling that springs to mind. But the “joy” James is speaking of is not in the pain of the situation. The joy is in the assurance that there is a faithful God drawing us closer to Him as He works through our darkness. The joy is in the assurance that when our faith is put to the test and we think we can’t take another step, we find ourselves growing and strengthening spiritually, and with God’s constant help, we do take that step. That is the joy that will usher in understanding, usher in acceptance, usher in forgiveness, and usher in the grace for all our days. That is the joy we can find in the desert.