Day 4: The Grief Process: Finding Our Way & Thriving in the Desert

salvation-3

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert.

Scriptures of the Day:

Job 17:15

“Where then is my hope – who can see any hope for me?”

Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Isaiah 35:1

“Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!”

Isaiah 43:19

“Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness.”

Hosea 13:5

“I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.”

Jeremiah 2:6

“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?'”


The desert is a beautiful place if we have eyes to see it. Some just see the dust and the dearth of anything green and lush. There seems to be no life there. Some fear the scary critters lurking and slithering all around. Others see the majestic mountains in the backdrop, and the brave life that sneaks up through the cracks in the ground, bursting forth with promise.

I grew up out west and New Mexico left a big impact on me. Or maybe on my derriere. I recall vividly walking on top of a fence (because this is what sensible people do) and falling to my demise right on top of a cactus. The hours spent having someone else pull needles out of my bum taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten – the desert hurts.

The scorpions and tarantulas added to my distaste of the desert, too. Walking home from school with the mighty March winds stinging my legs while dodging flying tumbleweeds, I confess that while the terrain was beautiful in this desert, it was harsh, too.

God’s people knew the desert well – they spent a lot of time there. They did not appreciate it and complained about God’s provision while they were there.They remembered the provision they had while enslaved and favored that place of shame and suffering instead of being dependent upon God in a dry season. Not a lot has changed with the people of God. We, too, wonder why we have to spend time there at all.

The desert serves as such a palpable analogy to the spiritual desert that we often find ourselves in and out of in this life.

Sometimes we bring the desert on ourselves by forgetting God. And sometimes we are surprised by the sudden appearance of desert all around us. We did not plan to go there. Things might have been going well for awhile … then. Then the other shoe drops and there is nothing but death seemingly in front of us.

When my children and I were trying to navigate the new terrain of life we were thrust into, we did not know the way. The only map we had was God and His Word – oh, and many people offering counsel. Some good, some not so good.

Trying to acclimate to the spiritual desert we were in, it seemed like we just kept falling on cacti. One night, a little over a year of being in the desert, the LORD gave me a strong impression that I needed to pray for protection over my children and I. I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning praying and the next morning a friend called to ask what was going on in our world – she had begun praying at 4:00 in the morning the very same words I had been praying. A robbery had happened that night a couple doors down and my next door neighbor witnessed someone standing at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night.

I still shudder when I consider the mercy of God, calling me to pray fervently and His protection over us. A couple weeks later, I witnessed eight men in two cars coming out of a neighbor’s home. Another robbery. My heart melted within me. My son told me it was time I got a gun . . .

In the midst of an endless court battle, being falsely accused and sued by family members who felt they had a right to invade our lives while we suffered immensely, my health also took a turn for the worse. Autoimmune diseases all flared up, my strength was succumbing to the stress all around me. Finances were a wreck, our home was foreclosed upon, the robberies intensified our feelings of insecurity in an abyss of problems, so I went to buy a gun to protect my children and I.

Little did I know there was fine print on the back of a court document that said I could not purchase any firearms. Later this court error was fixed, but the trauma of this gun toting homeschool mama being arrested, handcuffed and brought to jail was another thorn in the desert that I will not soon forget.

Oh God – do you see me? Do you see this turmoil we are in? How do You receive glory from this? Why is this happening? Joseph must have felt the same way – thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit. But He honored God in that desolate place and he hoped.

When things go from bad to worse, we are not ever forgotten. The thorns and thistles of life often grow on things of beauty. It hurt more than I could ever convey to walk the lonely path we did, but in those broken cries and prayers to my God alone, there was this thing of beauty that He was accomplishing within. Endless hope in the character of God.

I thought I knew the LORD (and I did) before the biggest trial of my life, but now – now I knew Him in such an intimate way that all I wanted was His glory. I did not care how long He had me in this desert anymore. If this is where He wanted me, I surrendered my plans for an escape (it would not have worked, anyway), and worshiped Him right there in the dust. In the jail cell while the police officer explained my innocence. In the court while I was exposed to the most painful revelations a mother should never have to hear. In church when all I could do was weep and hide my face with my long hair to try and disguise my inner turmoil.

Just like God saw Ishmael’s mom weeping for her son in the desert, God saw me. Raw and real, loved and embraced.

You see the secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert. He has a purpose in the desert that far exceeds our purposes in the valley.

In the desert we discover that our perspective depends on what we look at – the problems or the promise around us. God has life in the desert – not just death. We can be overflowing with hope even in the desert…because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also gave strength to Jesus when He was in the desert. And Jesus modeled surrender and worship in that place.

We are not alone in the desert, even though it feels so very lonely. Though it is tempting, don’t look at the thorns around you – see the beauty in the desert and the oasis God provides for those who thirst after Him.

The pressure of our desert is making us into diamonds and the testimony formed is priceless.

The next time you are in the desert, think of it as going camping with God. He is there with us. The Holy One – with us! The beauty of the desert is lost to those who just look at the rugged exterior. In the arid places, the places that seem like there is no more life at all, we have a new kind of hope forming within us – reinvented, made in the dry places – a thing of beauty to behold. A hope full of God’s promises and fellowship – and our hopes and plans lie fallen on the desert floor. And we are free.

In the place of suffering and disbelief, even disillusionment, we can choose to not just survive, but thrive, even delight in God – Who meets us in the arid places of our lives. Pity parties are exposed, His purposes are seen as higher, and victory is found. This is where God longs for us to rest – not when things are perfect, but with Him in the desert – even when they are uncertain – to know that His blueprint for our lives is perfect at all times.

Oh Lord, we hope in You alone. Whether in the desert, the sunshine or the rain, You are our God in all of it.

We may as well sing while we are in the desert. 🙂 Here is a worship song from Housefires – Never Run Dry

 

A Test for the Heart

Photo Credits ted.coe.wayne.edu

Photo Credits ted.coe.wayne.edu

Proverbs 17:3“The crucible is for refining silver and the furnace is for gold, likewise the LORD tests the hearts.”

Jeremiah 17:10 – “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

1 Chronicles 29:17a – “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.

Deuteronomy 8:2 – “And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

Test day – usually a day of apprehension, even if you have prepared thoroughly.  Will your preparation be enough?  What if you do not pass?  What is the purpose of testing?  As a homeschool mom, it has been an amazing adventure to watch my children grow from exposure to various curricula to mastery of many subjects.  Sometimes it seems futile – “why learn all of these facts we will never use in real life?” is the repeated cry within our walls, but the application of many subjects becomes evident in time.  But testing the heart cannot be done by hooking up to a heart monitor, no, the Word of God and trials are able to shed light on the true condition of our hearts.

Sometimes a student can fantasize about supposed sinister motives of professors, seeking to entrap students and trip them up, but I love contemplating the LORD’s motives for testing us – He wants to reward us.  He is not seeking to expose our evil for exposition’s sake – He wants to rid of us our evil and then encourage us in the things that are pleasing in His sight.  What a good God!  He wants to remove the burden of sin and set us free.  Testing us reveals the inner motives that need to be purged and removes the dross from our lives.

While God allows in testing, He does not tempt anyone, nor is He tempted with evil, but when we triumph over those evil things that are permitted into our lives, He is pleased and truly glorified.  We and others see that our faith is genuine – deeply rooted in a vibrant relationship with our living God.  Rather than despising the testing, submitting to God and seeking His purpose within and responding in humility and surrender can cause the testing to be fruitful.  Resenting the testing will likely bring more tests your way and not be fun. 

So what should be our response?  Delight hardly seems plausible or genuine, but perhaps our view of delight is skewed.  I remember making a deal with the LORD when I was a new Christian.  I would serve Him if I never had a miscarriage and never had any children with severe allergies.  Laugh out loud.  Embarrassing to admit, but true.  When I lost my second child due to a miscarriage, God warned me ahead of time and the trust and peace I had in Him when it happened amazed me.  “In His faithfulness, He afflicts those He loves.”  Of course I was sad and did not want to suffer such a loss, but I never felt more loved by my God.  Make sense to the world?  Probably not, but I had learned in that trial to trust God’s hand and purposes even in suffering. I would later find that my firstborn was afflicted with Celiac Disease – far worse than allergies.  What a merciful God to reveal the disease, that we might help heal her.  Perspective.

If everything was easy and we never sought to challenge ourselves, how would we grow?  And character growth is a beautiful sight to behold, indeed.  Testing produces good fruit for those engage in the process.  Pop quizzes are not fun at all – they seem unfair in that one did not have sufficient time to prepare.  Likewise, perhaps the next trial to come will take you by surprise, but it doesn’t surprise God – He already knows it completely and knows the end.  Let the peace of Christ fall on us in that promise.  Preparation for whatever the future holds is now.  Seize the day and invest your life in God.  The word you memorize today might be the grace you need tomorrow. 

Lord, help us to recognize our need for growth and to yield to You in the process of trials that come our way.  Thank You that Your purposes are always good in them and that we will come out of the trial refined like silver for Your glory!