Treasures in the Desert
By Steve Hearts
Over the years I’ve learned that walking with the Lord is anything but predictable. The terrain we traverse with Him can vary from day to day. He does indeed lead us through plenty of “green pastures,” where His presence is impossible to doubt and His blessings rain down in abundance, where hunger and thirst are nonexistent, and we lack nothing. There are also deserts and wildernesses which make life seem like one big drought. It seems the trek knows no end. The bareness and desolation stretch on for miles. The sweltering heat of the sun mercilessly beats down on us, and its glare threatens to blind us to the presence of our Maker and constant companion. Is it worth it to continue? we ask ourselves.
I’ve experienced the sudden and abrupt change from a green pasture to a barren wilderness. Yet, despite the tedium of the journey, I can boldly say that the periods of wilderness wandering have served to enrich my life more than almost any other period.
Upon experiencing one of these abrupt changes, my first reaction was to wonder, How did this happen? How did I ever end up in such a state? But upon talking with and reading the writings of other fellow travelers on the road of faith, I came to realize, quite to my relief, that to experience spells of spiritual dryness is not an uncommon occurrence.
The symptoms of this dryness vary with each person. In my case, the fire and passion with which I went about the Lord’s work was considerably dampened. This was partly due to a seeming decline in visible progress made and fruit borne. I felt as though I were laboring and toiling without truly getting somewhere. The Lord’s presence seemed distant and His voice silent. It was a tedious chore just to put one foot in front of the other.
In an effort to steer my heart and mind away from the self-pity that I’d nearly succumbed to, I began thinking back on my life and all the ways in which the Lord had marvelously come through for me. I thought of the many lessons I had learned over the years, which were serving as lifesavers for me.
As I did so, I remembered my love for writing, something I had wanted to pursue for years but had put off. Without a second thought, I set to work. The more I wrote, the more fulfilled I became. Writing proved to be surprisingly therapeutic for my spiritual life. I found myself reconnecting with Jesus as He inspired me with more to write about. The more I wrote, the closer I grew to Him. I know that if it weren’t for my journey through the desert which brought me to my knees, I would have never rediscovered, let alone pursued, the calling the Lord gave me as a writer. This calling truly turned out to be my treasure in the desert.
I’m reminded of John the Baptist, who also spent some time in the desert before his mission of preparing the way for the coming of the Lord.1 He no doubt grew weary of “wilderness wandering” at times. Imagine living on a diet of “locusts and wild honey.”2 But the time spent in the desert was what prepared him to fulfill the calling God had mapped out for him.
Although I still find myself in times of wilderness, I journey on, taking comfort in the fact that I’m not alone. My Maker and best Friend is walking with me and leading the way. I take great comfort in the promise “I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”3
The words of the following poem have come alive to me throughout my journey.
My Truest Friend
Sometimes I walk beside You
And I feel Your presence sweet,
Like a fragrance that pervades the atmosphere,
And bright flowers seem to spring forth
At the impress of Your feet,
And Your voice like rippling waters fills my ears.
Yet, sometimes I grope to find You
And I see no earthly sign,
As I wander in a desert vast and bare,
And my cries are met with silence
From the unforgiving sky,
And I find no evidence that You are there.
Sometimes through verdant pastures,
Beside laughing, rippling streams,
Sometimes through mighty canyons, deep and grand,
Sometimes through arid wastelands
Where the heat dissolves my dreams,
And I faint to grasp Your caring, guiding hand.
Yet these feet will go on walking
On the path that You have led,
And this heart will go on trusting till the end,
And will know You the more deeply,
When my feelings all are fled.
Though I see You not, You are my Truest Friend.4
If you find yourself in a desert place, don’t lose heart. Persist in faith and rest in the knowledge that “the man who walks with God always gets to his destination.” Furthermore, your desert trek may lead you to treasures that would not be found elsewhere.
1 See Luke 1:80.
2 See Matthew 3:4.
3 Isaiah 43:19 KJV.
4 Treasures in the Snow, copyright © 2000 by TFI.