For many of us, this past year has felt like we have been in a desert. The familiar routines and ways of life have gone and in their place, boredom for some, and for others, the stressful juggle of home education and work – a number of us are struggling with the financial implications of Covid-19, and loneliness, anxiety and even despair have become our constant companions.
I see this season as a wilderness and I name it such because we have been thrown off course, our plans and goals and dreams are on hold, as though we have wandered from the path and unwittingly, we have stumbled into an unknown terrain. This alien territory throws much at us, and seems to have also sucked much from us.
We find ourselves, perhaps, in a landscape that looks, and certainly feels desolate, unfamiliar and bewildering. We do the daily things that we need to do for our families and for our homes, but these things are not necessarily life giving – this uninvited and unexpected new normal has brought with it pain and sadness, confusion and loss – a weariness hangs over us all, and lack of connection, leaves us feeling empty, and we are grieving.
I have two choices in my response to the landscape that I have been thrust into – I can embrace it and surrender myself to life in this wasteland and to what it potentially might produce in me, or I can struggle with it and kick against it, yielding to the inevitability of loss and isolation. I can plough my own furrow, or choose to adopt a different posture.
I also know, in my head, at least, that Abba Father has not sidelined me, overlooked or forgotten me. He has not abandoned me or given up on me. It is not that He doesn’t know what to do with me. He is not shocked or surprised at what we are all going through, at the difficult decisions we are having to make and at having to bear the consequences of the careless actions of others.
In many ways, we have been stripped and are left bare and naked, because in the desert there is nowhere to hide. The real me is being exposed and I believe that God is posing two questions. To those who have ears to hear, He asks, ‘Am I enough and do you trust me?’. Deep restoration is found here, in the answer. YES, you have to be enough, and YES, I choose to trust you. It is in this YES, whispered perhaps, tentatively at first, but nonetheless voiced from a profound need for encounter and connection, that our hearts can start to heal.
On those days when I am low, I have to choose Him – how can I yield to one that I do not trust? Sometimes these places and seasons of being stripped cause us to turn again, and see what was there all along, though we knew it not. God wants us – a people for Himself. This is all He has ever wanted. I don’t think He cares too much about what we do for Him. His longing is that our hearts be His, and in this, there is wholeness.
Abraham. Moses. Joshua. Jacob. Joseph. David. John. Desert experiences feature in all their stories – it refined them and strengthened them. It honed them and humbled them. The desert prepared them for what lay ahead, and ultimately, it formed them.
Let us not waste our sojourn in this particular wilderness. Let us allow Him to hold us and watch over us, to feed us and care for us, that it, too, may become a redemptive part of our story. I pray for me, and for you, that as we collectively navigate this harsh landscape, we would allow ourselves to be nourished by God alone, and there, that we would find healing.
He found him in a desert land,
And in the howling waste of a wilderness;
He encircled him, He cared for him,
He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.
The LORD alone guided him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth, And he ate the produce of the field;
And He made him suck honey from the rock,
And oil from the flinty rock,
Curds of cows, and milk of the flock,
With fat of lambs,
And rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats,
With the finest of the wheat—
And of the blood of grapes you drank wine. (Deut 32:10-14)