The Desert Experience
I’m starting to get some gray hair. I keep telling my kids that it’s my blond hair coming back in, but they are too smart for that nonsense. The thing about gray hair is we think wisdom comes with it. Unfortunately, time itself does not necessarily make you mature. Wisdom comes from what you do with your experiences.
In Numbers 20, Moses finds himself in a desert — still. Dry. Dusty. Thirsty. Hot. No end in sight. Have you ever found yourself in a desert? It’s been 40 years since the the spies were sent out. 40 years since the Israelites chose the negative report of the 10 spies over the positive report of the 2 spies. 40 years of dryness. 40 years of walking. 40 years of complaining. 40 years…is a long time!
Moses also finds himself in the same situation he was in 40 years earlier. The Israelites were complaining about not having water. Just like 40 years earlier. And, like 40 years earlier, Moses and Aaron sought the Lord first. So far, so good. However, unlike 40 years earlier, Moses disobeys God this time. Instead of calling the water out from the rock, he hits the rock. Consequently, this is the sin that keeps Moses from entering the Promised Land.
As I read this passage I began to wonder, could it be that the 40 years in the desert have gotten to Moses? Who would blame him, right? After 40 years maybe we would do the same thing.
The thing about a desert is it’s going to bring about change — you’re either growing or dying. In my experience, there doesn’t seem to be too much of a middle ground. The dryness of the desert is either causing your roots to drive down deep in search of water or, well, you die.
Even though it’s uncomfortable for us, the desert seems to be God’s preferred method of maturation. So here are some things to remember when you find yourself there:
The desert is a tough season and you’ll need nourishment. This is not a time for the woe-is-me’s. Stay in God’s Word regularly. I suggest changing up your routine to keep things fresh. Even when the feelings tell you you’re getting nothing out of it, keep reading God’s Word with an openness to His Spirit.
It was in a desert that this “charismatic” worship pastor learned worshiping God is not always about my feelings. This is one of the biggest lessons on worship I’ve learned and has probably saved my life on more than one desert stint. Worshipping God is like lotion to dry hands — it may take a little while, and you may have to rub it into the skin, but you will get it soft again.
As mentioned, the desert is used by God to mature us. So, after you have read His Word & worshipped, listen to what He is speaking to you in this season. You may want to journal or write notes in your Bible, but this season is about your growth, so don’t miss it.
God doesn’t hate you, nor has He forgotten about you. God still loves you! Whether your desert is a result of sin that God is graciously helping you through or preparation for the next leg in your journey, remember you are not the first to go through a desert. Abraham. Jacob. Moses. Elijah. David. Paul. And oh yeah…Jesus. They all went through a desert. The desert was God’s chosen instrument to get the “Saul” out of David before he took the throne to eventually become the greatest king Israel has ever known. And, the desert is what He used to prepare Jesus for His ministry on earth. (Note: Jesus used God’s Word in the desert to overcome the temptation of the Enemy.) I’d say we’re in pretty good company.
A few years ago I wrote a song about God’s love in the midst of the desert. Here is the song’s story & mp3.
The desert experience is not designed to be fun. In fact, much like the uncomfortableness your body can endure with growing pains, the desert can bring many of the same feelings. However, if you hold on — if you endure — you will make it through and you’ll be glad for what God does in you!
So, this is my list. I’m sure it incomplete, but I hope it is helpful. What’s on your list?
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