Through the Desert

Several year ago Anita and I made a trip through the Mojave Desert.  On Purpose.

In need of food and drink we started to look for a place to eat.  Our GPS indicated one, lonely outpost off of Interstate 15: Baker, California.  Baker is a glorified rest areas of 735 lonely souls who apparently couldn't find a way to get out of Baker.  The town is tiny, so it didn't take us long to drive the entire main drag looking for a restaurant with a local flair.  It became evident quickly that Baker lacked any flair.  It did not, however, lack a Denny's.  A very strange one.  The hostess, quickly became our waitress.  She was also the cook.  And the cashier.  She seemed to be the only person working.  The other employees apparently had the good fortune to escape dusty, dry, barren Baker.

Most people want to flee the desert.

The desert is a dry and dangerous place.  Its extreme temperatures and unwelcoming environment make survival challenging.  For many, 2020 was a desert experience.  But deserts can occur even when we least expect them.  

I thought of our desert experience as I read this week's sermon passage:

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me...

Two words captured my imagination as I read David's song:

Through.
With.

For God's people, the desert is not our final destination. But we may have to go through difficult places. Our desert can take different shapes:  job loss, divorce, miscarriage, bankruptcy, or pandemic.  None if us is immune.

However, we are not alone.  God is with us - guiding, assisting, rescuing, and embracing us along the way.

And when we go through the hard times with God, something unique and lifechanging can happen.  We walk the dry lands with him, but we can leave the parched terrain more like His Son. God uses the desert to form us into image bearers of Jesus.

Missionary Elisabeth Elliot put it this way:

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The cross was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.” 

David, the man who wrote Psalm 23 knew this truth intimately.  When promising to slay a giant against overwhelming odds, the boy David recalled God's presence in a desert:  “The Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

Are you in a desert?  Do challenges seem overwhelming?  Be patient, and seek out direction from the one who is with you through this current season.  He is preparing you for greater things.

You Are Loved,
Pastor Mike




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