Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WEATHER (07/19/18)
TITLE: Weathering the Desert
By Jenny Fulton
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At first glance, before you enter it, there is beauty. You could call the bright color of the sand beautiful. You could call the waves and texture of the land beautiful and the occasional mesas or mountains that rise above the sandy surface beautiful. There is a sort of romantic loneliness and solitude.
On the other hand, also at first glance, it is devoid of life. The existence of any sustainable form of life looks impossible. It is obviously a dead land, and no one in their right mind would willingly go into such an unforgiving environment to live.
But that’s only at first glance.
Now, pick up your backpack and venture forth into this desert.
The sun beats mercilessly down on you, quickly sapping you of your energy. Hot winds beat unhindered against any exposed skin. There are no trees, no shade for protection. You are alone; exposed to the unfriendly elements. The beauty you could see at first glance becomes virtually non-existent in your memory. What beauty is there in an endless path of exhaustion and discomfort?
It isn’t too long into the journey until you begin to see signs of life – unfriendly life – life that is out to get you, to bring death. You see cactuses and thistles, bees and wasps, snakes and scorpions, vultures and buzzards. Fear creeps in, more poignant even than the exhaustion.
Hours turn into days.
Days turn into weeks.
Weeks turn into months.
You struggle to put one foot in front of the other.
The questions begin:
Why are you out here?
How long is the journey?
When will it end?
Should you turn back?
Suddenly, you remember that there was mention of an oasis somewhere up ahead and a beautiful land filled with good things on the other side of this horrid expanse.
Do you have the strength and will to keep pressing on to a place you have been told about but have no proof of its existence, or do you turn back to the land that was OK, but familiar?
Deserts have a prominent place in the Biblical narrative.
Moses lived in the desert for 40 years.
The Israelites traveled through the desert for 40 years.
Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days.
In each of these scenarios, God used the setting of the desert to teach and strengthen his people. He led them away from the comfort they were accustomed to, from everything they had learned to rely upon to give them life, and brought them to a place where there was seemingly nothing good. Except Himself.
Everything they knew – gone.
Everything they were sure they needed – gone.
Every sign of sustainable life – gone.
And there they found themselves face-to-face with a God who said, “Trust me. Trust me to be your source of life, to provide you with everything you truly need. And when you have made it through, when you have weathered this desert, you will know me, and in knowing me, you will find yourself in a far better, far more abundant place than the one you left.”
At some point in our journey, we all find ourselves in this same kind of desert. We all have things that we’ve come to rely upon as our source of life, rather than relying upon the true Life-Giver. Sometimes this desert looks like giving up a certain activity or occupation that we used to fuel our energy and interest. Sometimes it means entering into a period of social isolation. Sometimes it is a physical move from one place to another.
Whatever the reason, we find ourselves in a desert that feels harsh, unforgiving, and lonely. Deprived of what we once thought was so necessary for life, we find ourselves, like the Israelites, faced with a choice. Do we groan and complain against God for bringing us to this place, or do we, like Jesus, trust that God is able to do what he said he will do? Do we test God and demand that he prove himself worthy of our trust, or do we answer the temptation with knowledge of what God has already done as we press forward, step by step, living by faith to arrive at that which God has promised?
When we choose the latter, something wonderful happens to the desert. Suddenly, it ceases to be a place of death, and becomes a place of hope, joy, and life.
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