This morning, I read all about deserts in the Bible. The desert becomes a grand metaphor for our own hearts and lives. When you think of desert living, you think of a dry, uninhabitable, lonely, and languishing kind of image. And nothing good seems to happen in the desert. People starve and die in the desert.
But when God enters in with His power and presence, the desert changes.
The desert blooms! Rivers flow!
Hannah Whitall Smith writes about how to bloom in the desert. She asks her readers if they feel like they are in “desert soil” where nothing can grow. I think of desert places in our relationships, our work life, our communities, or in our families. I think of where we cannot see any fruit or refreshing water flowing. The desert offers no peace, joy, or hope.
What can we do? I read how when we put ourselves into God’s hands, He can turn the desert into a place of joy and abundance. We take on a radical posture of abandonment, surrender, and deep faith. Consider the desert imagery in scripture and what God can do in the desert places of our lives:
- In Psalm 107:35, we read how “He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs.”
- In Isaiah 32:15 we read about the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.”
- Isaiah 35:1-2,6 we learn that God’s presence does something great: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. . . Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”
- Isaiah 41:17-19, we read, “But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys, I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together.”
The Lord loves to turn deserts into fertile places. And I know to read symbolically because of Jesus’ words: When Jesus says that He offers “streams of living water” that flow from within in John 7, the people would feel the desert in their own hearts. They would know. They needed to bloom. They needed water. They were desert-level thirsty.
And now the Holy Spirit comes to transform the desert within. What happens without that presence?
When the Lord removes His power and presence, we read often of desert wastelands in scripture. The desert represents places of wandering, of judgment, suffering, and longing. The desert grows in our hearts as we complain, rebel, live independently of God, and choose to sin. The desert within our hearts becomes a wasteland when we live in greed, bitterness, anger, and fear. But when we trust in the Lord and give up our lives to Him?
Remember: The desert blooms! Rivers flow!
We don’t have to fight or crawl our way out of the desert. God can do everything. Hannah Whitall Smith writes, “He is able to turn any soil, whatever it may be like, into the soil of grace the moment we put our growing into His hands. He does not need to transplant us into a different field, but right where we are, with just the circumstances that surround us, He makes His sun to shine and His dew to fall on us, and transforms the very things that were our greatest hindrances into the chiefest and most blessed means of our growth.”
I pray our desert places bloom.