“I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.” (Hosea 2:14)
God leads all his people into the desert at one time or another. Why? Is it to bring harm or to bring rich goodness? Cherished ones of the Father, we can trust Him. It is to bring goodness. Though it may take a while for us to see it.
Moses spent 40 years in the desert before God raised him up to lead Israel out of Egypt. As soon as God delivered Israel from bondage, He took them into the desert for another 40 before entering the Promised Land. David did a lot of desert time hiding out from Saul before God made him king. And the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert after His baptism for 40 days.
It wasn’t just men out there in the wasteland…
After Eve, the first woman mentioned by name in the Bible is Sarai, whose name means Princess, noblewoman. In modern Hebrew, it means woman minister. She too was a woman who lived in the desert, wandering for the better part of her life, never settling down or having a home. In fact, the only permanent address she owned was her burial place.
Sarah wandered the desert. Hannah wandered the barren terrain of her womb and her heart. Naomi lived in desolation and loss. Elizabeth was beyond hope, and Mary was to bear the hope of the nations in a life filled with the impossible that led her to spend many years in the desert.
And they all encountered the living God. The desert for them led to a place of great fruitfulness. Sarah had Isaac. Hannah had Samuel. Naomi had Obed through Ruth. Elizabeth had John. Mary had the Son of God—all in the midst of crying out for the promise of God’s coming. They had to wait long for it. And they were crafted and honed and shaped in the waiting. But after a time—for some, a lifetime—they saw the completion of their desire to be fruitful.
We sometimes feel that we are in the waiting room of our lives. Maybe you are there now. There are times when we do not see the promise of any kind of fruitfulness or goodness being fulfilled. Not yet. We are not married. We don’t have children. Our health isn’t what it was. We are lonely. The business failed. The partnership ended. Our future is uncertain. The life we had been dreaming of may have fallen down around our ears. The promises we believed were ours are becoming dim in our hearts.
Add COVID to the mix, and we must acknowledge that we’ve all been living in a waiting period of uncertainty with, very probably, some level of anxiety.
Now what? Now we are like Abraham and Sarah wandering in the desert. We are like Jacob wondering where his head will fall. We are the women and the men who preceded us in the Scriptures who sometimes got lost and to the end of themselves in the waiting period. We are joined with the great company of saints who have gone before us clinging to the God of Love while their eyes had yet to see His coming. We now are the ones who have not seen but still believe.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who haven’t seen me, yet believe.” (John 20:29)
We too are being honed and shaped. Chiseled and carved. We are being tested and tried and too often feel that we are found wanting.
And in all of it, we are clinging to God—calling out to Him in our dry places, from our places of lack where we thirst. Friends, even when we no longer have the strength to cling to God, HE IS CLINGING TO US.
Because God is faithful. He has not abandoned us. He promises that he never will. “I will never leave you or forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
He is with us. He promises that he is always with us. “Behold I will be with you always until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
He is moving. He promises that he is ALWAYS moving for our good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) The truth is, God uses desert experiences for our great good. We will encounter Him there. He will find us even if we feel at times, quite lost. We thirst. He promises to quench it—with His very Person, with Living Water.
Because in all of it, ultimately, we are waiting for Jesus, the Son of God who came and is coming again. In this season of Advent, when we are waiting for so very much, let us turn our gaze and the longings of our heart to the one safe place for them to land. Our hope is in Christ. Our hope is in the faithfulness of His unchanging character. Our hope is in all the promises He has ever proclaimed that culminate in His victorious return.
Faithful God, revive our hope as we wait. Reveal Your love to us more deeply particularly in our dry places. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.