Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1 Peter 5:6-9
It is so hard to focus on what you need to focus on when there are distractions. When I was in school I can remember walking down the hall with an open book heading for History class studying on the way, in the three minutes we had to change classes, for a big test. I was the kid that had a hard time focusing on what I read. I understood it all, I just didn’t retain what I read. Now they call that a learning disability. Back in the 80’s they called it laziness. I wasn’t lazy, I just couldn’t figure out how to “Clear the mechanism” as Kevin Costner said in the movie “For The Love of the Game.” I passed through most of those tests, some barely, but passed enough to have almost a 3.0 GPA.
So as you can imagine it was hard with all the negativity involved in ministering in a church alongside my husband that I had a hard time focusing on God’s word. I had a hard time casting my cares upon Him. Be anxious for nothing? I was anxious about everything. My stress level was so high that I had to start taking blood pressure medicine. Between all the infighting, back biting, and “I want to run the church my way” attitudes, it was hard to focus on what God really wanted for my life. I was never really sure if I was running off of emotions or if I was following God’s will. I always checked the fruits, and that system never failed me, but some days it was hard to discern what was loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and I seldom seemed to have my emotions under control. What was it I had done to deserve any of this. What was so bad in my life that God would leave me stranded…alone…in a desert. Was it because of some sin I had committed? Was it a way that Christ was grooming me for something bigger? Or was it simply that I had done nothing to cause it but life circumstances had placed me in a place I never intended to be and had no resources to allow me to climb out?
Now I want to clarify that it took some time for me to realize that this desert was a desert of my own making. I have never been a strong person spiritually. I have always been the first person to allow my life circumstances dictate my faith. I had come to a place where my heart was cold and burned out. My caring was a thing of the past. I had been hurt so much that I just didn’t care if I helped people heal, which used to be one of my greatest passions. I would gladly lead them to Jesus, but they had to come looking for Him. I was not going to take Him to them. I was tired. Someone else could do the work.
I felt like God had left me…all alone… in the desert. My prayers seemed to bounce off the walls right back at me. I kept praying to God. “Lord I know you tell me that you hear our prayers and that your word will not come back to me void, but I just don’t feel your presence. I don’t hear you talking to me like I used to.” Every one was asking so much of me and there was only so much of me to go around.
The women of the church were asking me personally to mentor them in their walk. I was glad to do it…but when I started telling them what they needed to do to walk completely with God, they became vultures waiting to pounce on me like I was fresh roadkill on the side of the road. I started talking about submissiveness and what God required of us as women of God and as Godly wives and they started making excuses about how they weren’t expected to follow all the “rules” in the Bible. I spoke at a meeting once about how if we are living within the realms of a Godly marriage, we as women did not have the right to withhold our bodies from our husbands. One of the wives was offended by that because she had not had an intimate relationship with her husband for over 2 years, and she started telling people I condoned marital rape. The list goes on and on.
I was giving out more than I was taking in. Even when rain did appear to refresh my parched soul, it dried up before it had a chance to be effective. I had too many plants that needed watering and there wasn’t enough rain on the horizon to refresh my soul. I knew I had to find a way to meet the Lord in the desert. So how do you meet someone you know is there, listening, but you can’t see, feel, or touch? I started looking up scripture about finding God in the desert.
I knew that in order to find my way, I had to remove myself from what I thought was the loneliest place I had been in for a long time. You see, I was wrong. God hadn’t left me stranded in the desert alone. It was I who had left Him and His path for my life and wandered into the desert alone. Alone, and not willing to accept the help of anyone who offered it to me…most of all, my husband. I made a big deal that he was always trying to be my pastor, not my husband. I didn’t need a pastor. I needed my husband. I wanted him to make it all better. He tried to tell me that I knew what I needed to do and that I had to do it myself. But I wanted a quick fix. I wanted it to be fixed without doing all the work. I had watched my family get put through some horrific trials, and I wasn’t willing to put the effort into working for God. I was all dried up.
My husband and I decided that the only way to begin anew, was to move our family away from all the hurt. We had planted our feet firm in Brookfield, Mo for 5 years, and it was time to shake the dust off of our shoes and move on to where the people were eager to hear God’s word. So we uprooted our family and moved to Wisconsin. It was truly the best decision we could have made. A new life. A fresh start. It was all I had dreamed of.
Problem was, even after we moved, I was still thirsty. I was still waiting on my oasis. So much for shaking the dust off. All I did was bring Missouri dust to Wisconsin with me. Until…
One morning I was doing my devotions and a Bible study I had started and I came across a Psalm that caught my attention. Psalm 63 was written by David as he was running from King Saul. God spoke to him in the desert, just as He did that day to me;
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
When I read that, I knew exactly what I needed to do. God spoke to me in the desert that day and told me I needed to get off my pity pot and pull up my big girl panties and start trusting in Him for all my needs once again. I can’t say it was an easy task. And it’s still a work in progress. But I still longed to hear his voice and feel His presence in my life. I believe that God allows you to linger in a desert, He wants you to learn from the experience. We’re usually in a hurry to get out. We want to take a drink of the world and get a quick fix. If you rush your way through, you might miss something. It would be better if we could all pray, “God, take as long as you need to take because I don’t want to do this again. I want to learn the lesson the first time.” In the end, you might just walk out of the desert having learned what you were supposed to learn, which leads you to be more Christ like.
I am so blessed to have a forgiving God who continually leads me on the right path when I earnestly seek Him. When I earnestly seek Him….I wake up every morning in the great state of Wisconsin, earnestly seeking Him. I long to draw closer to Him and allow His will to prevail in my life.
If you find yourself in a desert, you need to ask yourself these questions;
Are you earnestly seeking Him? Are you thirsting for Him above all else? If you have walked into a desert trust that only God can lead you out of it. Only He can give you the drink that you so long for. The catch is that you have to take the water and drink it. You have to be the one to seek Him. I was in the desert longer than I care to admit. I felt that the oasis I searched for was nowhere to be found.
I just forgot to look up. Now my days are filled with listening to Christian music, playing with and caring for the children I take care of every day, and seeking God’s face in all that I do. We found a wonderful church with a very loving church family that have accepted us for who and what we are. People who love the Lord with all our hearts, mind, and soul. People who want nothing more than to be in a place of worship where they freely embrace and live out the teaching and examples of our Savior.
Stay tuned for part 3 of my spiritual desert…(climbing out…while drowning still)