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Following God Into The Desert

"It is easier to be spiritual in the garden than in the Desert.

It is hard to maintain hope when God goes into hiding.

Mature disciples will not despise the Desert, for it is in these arid times that faith turns into faithfulness.

It is in the Desert that we get to know God.

Life in the Spirit is harder than we think it ought to be. The idea of a constant progress toward "the victorious Christian life" frustrates believers whose actual lives seem more checkered. The common experience of believers is that spiritual life is an ongoing struggle – three steps forward and two steps back. This is disappointing to those who were expecting something more evidently successful.

"Come to Jesus," we say to the convert. "Let him lift your burden and give meaning to your life. Know the peace and comfort that comes from walking in the Spirit.

God loves you and longs to fill you up with good things. He wants to give you joy." Spiritual life is like living in a garden where the air is fresh and abundant growth. "So, what am I doing living in this desert?"

Now and then, God goes missing. It is as if we've misplaced him. One moment our worship is warm, and God is good. We are living in the garden. The next moment we can't seem to find where we put him. It is desert spirituality. The fire grows cold, and the Spirit turns quiet.

Perhaps the result of a crisis or unknown causes the joy to disappear, and we find that God is absent without leave.

Our feelings do not describe spiritual vitality.

Our faithfulness demonstrates it.

It is the confidence that God is there, and that God is good, even when we can't find him."[1]

My spiritual history has been one of working my way out of the Desert. I need to accept that while my Spirit enjoys a green and fragrant place, I also have a spiritual home in the Desert that is neglected or, at best, receives only the second-best from my life.

Some people live in barren climates and love it. I have a friend named Titus from Pond Inlet in Canada's very far north. It is land that at first appears completely featureless: void of colour and contrast, it is also notable for the absence of trees. Pond Inlet is, in a word: barren. He has travelled the world and now spends most of his time in Yellowknife, N.T. He refers to the south. He says that there are too many people and too many trees in Yellowknife. He misses Pond Inlet. I understand this now more than ever before. To him, home is where a relationship is and what I see as barrenness is packed with life and hope.

In resetting my life, I need to see the Desert as my home. How will I do this?

First, I need to address my admitted dysfunctional behaviour of looking for a way out of the Desert by setting goals and objectives with the end purpose of getting an emotional high, sort of like finding an oasis. I'm tempted to call it a spiritual high. It is not. By acknowledging that God is in the Desert, I don't have to find a way out. The crazy idea that I can have a relationship with God while in the Desert is life-giving. Again, as my friend Titus and so many others recognize, home is where a connection is.

A home in the Desert. What a novel idea.

[1] Kenton, Anderson, C. Spiritual Vitality: Following God into the Desert. Acts Seminary

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