We traveled to California to see my grandparents when I was a boy. The problem was we had to cross the hot furnace of Arizona in July.
Highway 66 stretched for miles as the temperature climbed to 15 degrees above the century mark. Heatwaves radiated from baked asphalt. The air scorched.
I remember one thought. Get me to the other side.
Life’s road always leads through deserts. People criticize, and you shrink. The soul grows dusty, looking for any kind of relief. All problems, even trivial ones such as traffic lights, poke at us.
Why? Why must we go through the twisting of trials and the pull of pressure?
We are not alone. The Bible took the greatest through the deserts.
Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd in Sinai. His life’s purpose was gone, and he was left as a lowly shepherd taking sheep from one grass patch to another.
God pointed Elijah to the arid eastern side of the Jordan. It was forsaken with nothing but dust, and a trickle of a stream that ran through it. His only food had first been in a raven’s mouth.
Before he worked miracles or taught parables, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness where the devil compounded his trouble with tempting.
Paul found himself in Arabia once he escaped an attempted assassination in Damascus.
Each would say to us,
When in your desert, don’t miss its lessons.
The desert will come, and God expects us to endure. No one is immune from dust bowls of the spirit.
The desert teaches dependence on God, not self. After all, one of the marks of a desert trek is not having resources. When we have nothing to sustain us, we turn to God. He does.
The desert perfects us and polishes us. Like the swirling dust devil that shaves sharp edges off rock ledges, our own need strengthens as it stresses.
When I began in ministry, I had to dance in the frying pan of a family church, replete with family squabble magnified to church size. It was difficult. I could hear Thomas Paine whispering in my ear, “these are the times that try men’s souls…”
I would call back to my mentor to complain. But his observation was, “you’re getting some wonderful experience.” (That’s not what you want to hear.)
But looking back, I learned to get tough and handle enormous difficulties on a manageable scale.
Remember, the desert experiences of life prepare you to do what God wants you to do.
Think about what the desert does.
Moses went on to lead Israel to the promised land. The desert made him ready.
Elijah could stand the challenge of Mt. Carmel because of the hardship already endured.
Jesus began his ministry after going through the furnace of withstanding the devil’s taunts. He stood the devil and trial so he could endure even the cross.
Paul could win the world for Christ once the desert and its solitude shaped him.
So in the times when life blisters you and leaves you raw, consider the desert times. Those are what shape the great servants of God.