Drops of salty sweat trickled down my face, and I couldn’t see anything but dry ground and blowing sand. I was desperately craving water. Anything to soothe my burning throat and cracked lips. I kept wandering in hope of escaping the cactus thorns surrounding me and finding a stream of water.
I’ve never been to the actual desert, but I imagine that’s what it would be like.
Many of us, however, know what it is to be in a metaphorical desert all too well. Maybe you feel like you’ve been wandering through the mundane. Maybe you’re waiting for a miracle. Maybe you’re wallowing in a pit of looming sadness and can’t quite get out. Maybe you’ve been there, looking for your stream.
The Unexpected Growth
The desert seasons may look like praying for God to change your situation or asking Him to show you the way when you feel lost. They can be putting one step in front of the next every day, fighting off distress, complaints, or feelings of abandonment. The desert seasons are often lonely. They look bleak and hopeless. But “look” is the key word.
The desert seems to be the most desolate place you can be, and yet it is the best place for hope to shine through.
In the desert there are no charades or masks. We fall raw before the Lord as hurt, broken, and needy people. There, He meets us. He lifts our chins and gives us His living water, better than anything we use to satisfy ourselves. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37–38).
Once our self-sufficiency dies, we are free to let Christ do the holy work of making us wholly His.
It was there, in the desert, that I heard the Lord’s voice most clearly and felt His presence closer than I ever had before. He didn’t give me specific directions about the path I should go or details about when I would leave the desert place. Instead, He renewed in me a thirst for Him, and He satisfied me.
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Ps. 143:6)
The desert taught me to surrender my desires for a job, a plan, or happiness and lay it all out before the Lord; my new desire was only to seek after Him.
Any attempt to quench our thirst on our own will only result in disappointment. He showed me my need in the desert. We need Jesus more than anything, but in the valley, it’s as if we have special ability to see how the Lord goes with us and satisfies us in the driest, scariest, desert seasons.
It’s when we are most humbled and at our weakest point that the power of Christ is most at work in us, making us strong (2 Cor. 12:9).
I didn’t see how much I changed in my desert until I was out of it. We get to learn so much as we rely completely on Jesus in the desert seasons, and the potential for growth is really high, considering we usually find ourselves at a really low point. How, then, do we truly grow in the desert when we’re crawling along with sand in our eyes and heat exhaustion in our bodies?
Be a Desert Flower
Some incredibly beautiful flowers are only found in the desert. They survive because they adapt to the extreme conditions. Here are three ways these beauties grow, and I believe we can apply all of them to our own lives.
1. They grow very long roots to reach a water source.
In the desert, where it rarely rains, some flowers get the water they need with their roots, which means they have pretty long roots to extend to the source of water. Just as they stay in constant connection with the water, we can stay in constant connection with the Lord in prayer and trust.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jer. 17:7–8)
2. They lay dormant in the extremely dry periods and wait to show signs of life until they receive water.
Flowers like these reveal by their appearance that they are utterly dependent on water. When the water comes, they fully germinate after a season of waiting. While the Lord is always with us, in our desert season we can learn what it means to wait on Him. As we rely on Him with full hope, He revives us with joy.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Ps. 130:5–6)
3. They store water to retain moisture.
I suppose it’s like a sort of hibernation, except animals store up food for the cold season, while these flowers prepare for drought. We, too, can store up the living water of the Word as we read the Bible and dwell in it. Memorizing Scripture is a great way to stay hydrated with the Truth when we are susceptible to the devil’s lies in the desert season.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:10–11)
Everyone has their own desert journey. Even if it seems like this season will never end, don’t lose hope. God is doing a work in you, He’s growing you, and He will sustain you.
It’s in the least likely places that we tend to grow the most. How have you seen growth in your life because of a desert season?
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Ps. 42:1–2)