by Michael Smith
Chapter Twenty Seven
REASONS WHY GOD LEADS US
INTO A DESERT PLACE
|King David wrote in Psalm 63: "O God, thou art my God: early
will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for
thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is". These
words were written while David was fleeing for his life into the
wilderness of Judah from his own son, Absalom, who wanted to usurp
his father's power and become King in his place. David was
innocent of the grievances Absalom had against him, and he had
learned to praise God regardless of the circumstances in which he
We too at times in our Christian life may find ourselves in a "dry and thirsty land" and we will probably wonder what we have done wrong and why God seems so far away. But, as with David, going through a wilderness experience may not be due to any sin on our part or neglect of the things of God; He may have led us there for any number of reasons, but ultimately it will be in order that we may grow and mature in our walk with Him.
God may take us into the wilderness to prepare us to be used mightily by Him. He wants to know He can trust those He uses in His service regardless of what their circumstances are; as indeed we are tested in our ordinary lives by school exams or various interviews before being offered a responsible job. God will use the wilderness to see what's really in our hearts, to enable us to grow and mature, and give us a new vision of Himself. It was most probably while David was separated from his family as a boy tending his father's sheep that his relationship with God deepened and he became the trustworthy choice of God for King of Israel. John the Baptist spent most of his life in the desert in preparation for his ministry to come, which was actually very brief. And of course the Lord Jesus Himself was tested in the wilderness for forty days before He started His earthly ministry. Other men of God whom He took into the wilderness before sending them out on a new work for Him include Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Elijah, Amos, the apostles Paul and John, and many other Biblical men and women. Likewise, many pastors and missionaries since then can testify to needing to come to this point in their lives before being ready to take up a new ministry or going out to another country. The wilderness then, can be a place of spiritual preparation for a new work without all the worldly distractions that usually bombard us.
God may want to prune us so that we are able to bear more fruit for Him than we did before and He can best do this for us in a desert place. Or we may find ourselves there because that is where God can free us from the responsibility of 'things' for a while: possessions, interests, and duties that can occupy all our attention, to help us learn to depend on God and His provision rather than on others or ourselves, and to remind us that we are only passing through this life; our lives may be long or short but our true home is in heaven.
A dry wilderness experience can be a time of testing when God asks us if we will still love and follow Him faithfully in spite of the dryness and various other hardships and difficulties that will beset us in our Christian walk. Our main desire as followers of Jesus is to please God and do His will rather than please ourselves, and He may want to teach us to surrender any self-centredness and learn to die to self during this dry time.
We may find ourselves in a desert place so that we remember God's great salvation. It is very easy to be so busy even doing God's work that we forget His blessings to us, and the purpose of this time may be to give us a deeper longing and thirst for God.
God may lead us into the desert in order to test our faithfulness to Him as He did with Abraham who proved he was willing to sacrifice his only son to God, yet without stumbling in his belief in God's earlier promise to build from Isaac a great nation. Or, as with Job, God may be testing our faithfulness to Him by allowing the enemy to come against us for a short while.
Like the parent helping the young child to learn to walk who has to let go of the child's hand at some point if the child is to eventually walk unaided, so God may seem to be far away from us during our time in the wilderness, especially if we are crying out to Him but seem to get no answer to our prayers. But in fact, God hasn't left us at all. As the parent doesn't take his eyes off his child as he takes a hesitant step unaided, so it is with our spiritual walk; God is right there but He doesn't want us to remain babes in the faith; He wants us to mature and then help other young Christians grow. God may have seemed very distant to Job when he underwent a possibly far more testing time in the wilderness than we shall ever have to experience - even his wife scolded him to "curse God, and die" - yet Job held fast to God, as God knew he would, and won the battle the enemy was trying to wage against his soul.
The desert can also be a place of rest for us, as it was for the disciples in Mark 6:31. We all need times of rest or we will suffer 'burn out'. This exhaustion comes when we take on too much or think we are indispensable. Actually, God is the only Being Who is really indispensable. We all need to come apart before we 'come apart', and at such times God hides us under His wing to nourish and strengthen us and bring us back into balance. This kind of desert experience is a time of restoration; especially important in this day and age when everything seems to be speeding up and there is never enough time in the day to do all the things we need or want to do and little free time for devotion to godly things; it is so easy to find ourselves doing more than God wants us to be doing.
During any wilderness experience we need to learn patience and trust, because God cannot be hurried. We worship a three-mile-per-hour God! We must not try to change the desert place ourselves as we are sure to make a mess of it and hinder God's will for our lives. The Lord Jesus had eighteen years as a carpenter before He started His ministry, and He must have met many needy people during that time, but though His heart no doubt went out to them, His Father said, "Not yet, Son".
When God at last brings us out of the dry and thirsty place into "a large place" (Psalm 18:19), He will bless us with abundant blessings! He gave Job twice as much as he had had before he was so severely tested, and so it can be with us if we remain faithful to God and as close to Him as possible, regardless of our adverse circumstances. God wants the very best for each one of us; He wants to guide us ever further along the road that leads to Christian maturity, and eventually to eternal life with Himself.
© Michael Smith 2013