Well over a year ago, I had a dream in which my husband and I were in a desert. We were there temporarily, but quite purposefully — to prepare for something that was yet coming. We met up with some friends, who were on the verge of leaving the desert after having completed their mission there, and we discussed with them some plans that God was unfolding to us.
In real life, for a long time I had been noticing an increasing dryness in the spiritual climate around us. And, several months after my dream, our friends who appeared in it with us really did leave “the desert” to move into something new, while we were left behind for our preparation time. And the dryness of the spiritual climate around us further deepened.
I asked the Lord, “How are we going to make it in this desert place? How do we stay alive in the midst of it?”
He replied, “If you will put your roots down deep in Me, I will water you.” It reminded me greatly of Jeremiah 17:7, 8:
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.
The Lord seems to be telling me that we have a while to spend in the desert yet — a little over a year yet, I think. And I have pondered why. Why so long, where nothing much is happening? Why so long, when we don’t seem to be accomplishing a whole lot? What are we supposed to be doing while we are waiting?
The Lord answered me with Mark 6:30, 31 — “The apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And He said to them, ‘Come apart into a desert place, and rest a while ….'”
The desert is a place of rest and preparation — a season of life when we are meant to go apart with the Lord in prayer, seeking His face, strengthening ourselves in relationship with Him. It is a time to listen for God’s voice and to receive His blueprints for what we are to build for Him in the future. It is also a time God uses to mature our character and to put things in place for us.
God could have brought the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan in about two weeks’ time by the most direct road, but He chose to lead them by way of the longer wilderness route, because they were not yet ready to handle what they would encounter in their Promised Land (Exodus 13:17, 18). He wanted to establish in them a deeper understanding of Who He is, and He wanted to toughen them up a bit. He also used their desert time to give them His plans for how they were to worship and be governed.
Immediately after His baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12 says He was driven by the Spirit) into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. But this was not only a time of tempting; it was also a time of preparation for launch into the next phase of His life. He fasted. He prayed. He resisted and overcame the enemy. At the end of that time, Luke 4:14 tells us, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about.”
If you are going through a desert experience, do not be passive about your stay there. Allow God to accomplish His purpose in your life through your resting time in the dry place. True “rest” lets go of the frustration with the conditions, but at the same time actively pursues the Lord. Some people make the mistake of giving up hope and resigning themselves to the arid climate around them. They become accustomed to it, settle in, make the best of it, and develop a “that’s just the way it is” attitude. But God desires for us to let Him lead us through the desert. He has His best plans yet for us on the other side.