Are you living in a spiritual desert? Maybe you feel dry in your relationship with the Lord. Or maybe it is not you personally, but the spiritual climate of your surroundings that feels like the Sahara.
For a few days now, I’ve had the desert horse of the Middle East on my mind. Carefully bred for many centuries by the nomadic people who live there, Arab horses are known for their great stamina, strength, and agility. Their ability to endure searing heat and travel great distances through difficult terrain, with a minimum of food and water, are legendary.
There is allegorical truth hidden in their story for those of us who are currently living in a spiritual desert. Desert seasons are a part of every serious Christian’s life. Some of us spend more time there than others. No one finds it to be much fun. We love the Psalm 23 experience of Jesus leading us in green pastures, beside still waters. But if we stayed there all the time, we’d just be fluffy, helpless sheep, and the Lord has better things for us than that.
Like the desert horse, we are meant to have, spiritually speaking, muscles of iron. Psalm 18:34 comments, “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.” Such strength comes only through the rigors of enduring difficult conditions. Steel becomes what it is through a careful process that involves applying enormous amounts of heat. And yet, God speaks of giving us strength superior even to that possessed by steel.
Some of you live in a place where not much spiritual life is going on around you. You may not sense a great desire for the Presence of the Lord in your community or church house. There may not be a local “feed trough” of solid Bible teaching available to you. And you feel so very hungry and thirsty for nourishment from the Lord. I know what that feels like. Access to sound Bible teaching through books and the Internet is wonderful, but there’s nothing like having everything you need right in your own home town. The easy way out would be to shift locations — to find a new city or church where God is moving. But perhaps you know deep down inside that, at least for this season, you are called to be a desert dweller. It is part of God’s plan for you right now — but it’s a bleak outlook, all the same.
God has a way for us to not only survive, but also to thrive in the desert. Arab horses are renowned for their intelligence and sensitive nature. These traits have been developed in them through many centuries in a peculiar way. The nomadic people have commonly allowed the finest of their horses to live right inside their tents with them, sometimes even sleeping under their blanket and drinking from their own cup. Their legends are filled with stories of extraordinary love bonds and deep understanding between horse and master.
The key to surviving and thriving in our desert seasons is to stay close to our Master, too — abiding in His tent, the tabernacle of His Presence. We all have that place available to us, because Jesus has opened the way into the Holy of Holies for all who wish to not only visit occasionally, but to dwell there. We absorb His understanding, His sensitivity, His wisdom as we live close to Him.
Dwelling in the Lord’s tent does not happen automatically. Staying close to Him in the desert requires extra time set aside for Him in prayer and in His Word. We will increase in wisdom and understanding, but we will also find nourishment, so that we are sustained. Discipline and determination are needed, just as the desert horse must exert effort in his search for grass and water. Jesus’ Word is meat, and He is the Living Water.
God promises to take care of His desert dwellers:
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the LORD will hear them; I the LORD will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. — Isaiah 41:17, 18
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out her roots by the river, that shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. —Jeremiah 17:7, 8
May you thrive and grow wise during your season in the desert. And may you come out of that time a valiant warhorse for the Lord.