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Experiencing Desert

Today’s Reflection

THE GREEK WORD traditionally translated “desert” or “wilderness” … doesn’t mean hot and dry. It means uninhabited, lonely, with no human population. … The word can even be applied to people, in the sense of being without friends or supporters, or simply solitary. …

Where might we experience … deserted spaces? There are emotional deserts, … There are bodily deserts. Illness and accident, germs and genetics, cut us off from physical health. Age robs us of what we once could do with ease. … There are vocational deserts. We may be in the middle of college and have to admit that we have no idea why we are there. … Or we look around in our middle years and suddenly realize that we still don’t know what we want to be when we grow up. …

There are economic deserts. Poverty is a wasteland that seems to have a hundred paths. … There are social deserts. A friendship may seem to beckon, but prove impossible to develop because of various obstacles. … There are deserts of time: too little available, too much wasted, a lack of control over our time, time on our hands that seems impossible to fill …

There are most definitely spiritual deserts. Some people sense a calling, a certain sense of being summoned by God in a particular direction, but every circumstance of life seems to rise up and forbid them to answer. …

Every area of life has some potential to be desert. Of course, most of the things I’ve listed involve unchosen deserts rather than voluntary withdrawal into the wilderness. Yet in a sense everyone who has chosen the life of commitment to God has chosen the desert. Even if we have not entered a convent or a hermitage, once we have decided to love God “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength” (see Mark 12:30), we have subordinated everything that we have and are to the will of God. …

The truth is that we must simply learn to live in the desert, must try to remain oriented toward God as we go on through the misery. The divine presence is not the way out of the desert, it is the way through the desert. Remain attentive to God, stay utterly dependent on God — this is the lesson of the desert.

– David Rensberger

“Weavings”, May/June 2001

From “Entering the Desert Way” by David Rensberger, pages 8-9 inAlive Now, March/April 2012. Originally published in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, May/June 2001. Copyright © 2001 by The Upper Room. Used by permission. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.

Today’s Question

How have you experienced spiritual desert? Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture Reading

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Mark 8:35-37, NRSV

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Lectionary Readings

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{ 16 comments… add one }

  • robert moeller March 4, 2012, 5:29 am

    I experienced the desert when my wife passed away. I experience it when those I love go through tough times. I experience it when I see pictures of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, and earthquakes in which people die, are hurt, or lose their homes. I experience the desert when people are sick, in famine, in war, or are persecuted. In this world we are in the desert a lot.

  • robert moeller March 4, 2012, 5:31 am

    Lord, help us always to be mindful of and caring for those in financial difficulties. We are the body of Christ, may we do Your will. In Your Name I pray. Amen

  • Heidi March 4, 2012, 6:15 am

    (I experienced desert for three days while the “Share your thoughts” link malfunctioned.)

    When my husband died, the time of drought was short, as I was so surrounded by the love and prayers of so many!

    I am certain I have wandered through times of abject desolation, but honestly– just as there is beauty in the desert, in the bloom if a single cactus flower, just as an oasis provides relief, so, too, has God’s love appeared when I most desperately sought and desired it.

    Thanks be to our all-powerful God, who does not remain ‘out there,’ but willingly, lovingly resides right here. Amen.

    • Gary March 4, 2012, 4:09 pm

      and Amen, Heidi. My panic certainly throws me into the desert every time I click the “Share your thought” and get thrown out of the Upper Room. Its still happening for me. But, I learned to drop down a little more in the article to the “comment section”. I feel like the question is “deja vu all over again”. Any time I find myself away from God I feel I’m in the desert.

  • Gail Churchill March 4, 2012, 6:41 am

    I second the experience of others who say that the loss of a spouse can put you in a desert. Then you either call on God, and come to rely on him, or you don’t.

    Jesus went into the desert after his baptism, and was with wild beasts and the angels. The Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years.

    What is the difference in the desert, and the dark night of the soul?

    • Gary March 4, 2012, 4:21 pm

      I see no difference in place, just in label.

      • heidi March 4, 2012, 4:44 pm

        There’s something hard to label that makes a distinction for me. A dark night is deeper, more pain-filled. One really feels abandoned by God.

        A desert, on the other hand, to me, is not as desperate. It seems easier to lift one’s eyes and see.

        I have been in the desert but cannot recall feeling the desperation of a dark night. have walked with others through the darkness, however. Best not to walk alone.

  • Connie March 4, 2012, 7:29 am

    I still cannot access the “share your thoughts” (404….). I accessed today by clicking on “comment section” and it made me happy to be able to read everyone’s “reflections”. I will go back to read all of them.

    • heidi March 4, 2012, 4:49 pm

      We must’ve all had the same epiphany today. Too funny.

  • Connie March 4, 2012, 7:35 am

    I have been experiencing “desert days” lately. I know this will pass.

    “I am like a pelican in the wilderness, I am like an owl in the desert.
    I watch, and am as a sparrow alone on the house top.”

    • Gary March 4, 2012, 4:33 pm

      May God bless you, Connie, in your desert place. If you are physically able to be in small groups of people, may I suggest attending CoDependents Anonymous. I had a dark night of the soul experience that took God using this tool to bring me back to the land of the living. Second idea, use the Audio Divina at Alive Now at least until you feel overwhelmed by the love of Jesus, Third idea, when praying make your prayers very personal picturing Jesus sitting beside you in an intimate place you go to for your prayer time such as the edge of your bed. All these tools take some time to settle into so keeping going after them daily for say 8 weeks where you get to the point where if you skip a day you miss that time. Jesus loves you and so do we.

    • heidi March 4, 2012, 4:53 pm

      Consider the sparrow. Sold two for a penny n the market place. Yet God satisfies their every need. How much more will our Lord care for us– his most prized and beloved creation? (Loose paraphrase Matthew 6)

      • Connie March 5, 2012, 7:01 am

        Your thoughts are very much appreciated and helpful. Sometimes a person just needs another perspective.

        “I am like a pelican of the wilderness” (with caring people all around me and God “sitting right beside me”.)

  • Michael Ulmen March 4, 2012, 4:32 pm

    I sometimes experience wilderness, as temptation to go outside the
    boundaries of the Christian experience, like the black sheep that I am!

    • Gary March 4, 2012, 4:34 pm

      So very true Michael. Me too.

  • John Pius Ngugi March 10, 2012, 4:06 am

    Our Almighty God is so merciful and He will take care of us in times of difficulties.God bless

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