If you’ve followed Jesus for any length of time, you’ve probably been there. That vast, empty wilderness of soul where everything looks the same. No landmarks. No water.
The dry place.
You sing worship songs that once lifted your spirit, but now they’re just nice words set to pretty notes.
There’s no emotional connection to the meaning.
You open your Bible and try to read. After a few minutes of staring at the pages, your eyes glaze over. Your mind is numb, your spirit disconnected.
You try to pray. It’s all you can do to get the words out and over your lips. You know God hears you, but you sure can’t feel it.
Worse, you’re not hearing anything back.
Everyone around you seems to be doing great. They’re feeling God’s presence, weeping during worship, sharing what God’s been up to in their lives.
Everyone else is living at the oasis. Or so it seems.
Truth be known, the desert is a normal part of the Christian experience. It’s a place of testing, a place where we can’t rely on our feelings.
The desert is a place to exercise faith despite what our feelings tell us.
Here’s what comforts me when I find myself walking through the desert: Jesus knows all about this place.
Jesus was tested for forty days in the wilderness, right after his Father’s voice thundered approval from heaven, and the Spirit landed on him like a dove.
And then … silence. Loneliness. Struggle.
There Jesus faces Satan’s seductive scenarios, to which he responds with Scripture. But that’s not the whole point, because the devil knows the same Scriptures.
The point is this: Jesus knows the heart and character of God. He doesn’t just repeat the letter of the law, but lives by the spirit of the law.
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God…’ …‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’… ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” — Matthew 4:4, 7, 10
Jesus defeats his adversary by leaning into the character of his Father. By staking his life on who God is. By knowing that the truth is still the truth, even when God is silent.
This is our solace as well in dry seasons.
See, my feelings do not dictate what is true. Whether or not I feel God’s presence, or am moved during worship, or get goosebumps reading my Bible, God is real.
His promises are true. He is trustworthy. And nothing about him has changed.
I once read the story of a missionary who was imprisoned by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Semi-starved, she lived in filthy, horrendous conditions. Her one great comfort was the palpable presence of Jesus.
Then one day, she felt nothing.
No comforting presence. No insight as to why.
Crying out in anguish, she realized this was a test — that she had to live in that hell hole by faith, not by feelings.
Once she accepted that, this brave sister clung to her Savior by faith alone. As a result, her understanding of the faithfulness of God became unshakable.
So how do we thrive in the desert?
We lean into God’s character. We keep praising him as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. We stay in the Word, which is our food and light and sword.
And we pray and do not give up.
Your desert time won’t last forever. Don’t waste it trying to find your way out, and don’t rely on your feelings. Just lean into your Father.
He deserves your trust.