We’ve been talking about how to thrive in a spiritual desert. When we are surrounded by dryness, if we complacently accept it, we eventually become as dry as the environment around us. We discovered that Level 1 is learning to keep our passion for Jesus while enduring. This is the survival level. Level 2, which takes determined pressing into, is learning to carry our own personal oasis with us wherever we go in the desert. But God’s best for us is not just to personally prosper in a desert climate. He has an important role for us in the next level.
Level 3: Transforming the Desert
As we continue to walk in the Level 2 personal glory pool, we begin to affect the desert around us. Our pool expands outward from us.
Psalm 84 says that those who continually praise the Lord, find their strength in Him, and walk in His ways (vs. 4, 5), end up doing something most unusual: “Who passing through the Valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools” (v. 6).
“Baca” is Hebrew for “weeping.” Bible scholars aren’t sure where the Valley of Baca was, but they are generally agreed that it was a desolate place. Some translations go so far as to call it a desert valley, which is certainly implied by the rest of the verse. Some translate “well” as “fountain” or “a place of springs.” The idea, with the surrounding verses, is that those who abide in the Lord in the midst of their desert change the Valley of Baca from a dry place to a fertile one by their presence (actually the Presence of the Lord that they carry) as they pass through.
We said that transitioning from Level 1 (survival) to Level 2 (carrying the personal oasis of His Presence) is not easy. Neither is it easy to go from merely carrying a personal oasis to the higher level of changing the environment around us so that it is no longer a dry place. It takes focus. As in the Valley of Baca — the valley of weeping — there may be some tears. There will definitely be self-sacrifice, because if we are going to have our personal pool of the Lord’s Presence expand outward from ourselves, we will have to lay ourselves aside for others, giving them our time, love, compassion, and encouragement. By serving them in these ways, we draw them into our ever-expanding pool. We introduce them to God’s glory and show them how to walk in it, too. God’s Presence is infectious, and as we release it into the lives of others, they begin to carry it as well.
At Level 3, our business is to reclaim the desert. Isaiah 35:1-7 illustrates what happens as we release the Presence we carry over others:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing: … they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful in heart, “Be strong, fear not: behold, your God … will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water….
You may be asking, “But how do I transition to Level 3? How do I see to it that my oasis expands outward?” God uniquely tailors the answer for each of us. Really, you can’t expand the oasis. He does that through you. What you can do is continue to walk in the Level 2 status of consciously carrying God’s Presence with you — abiding continually in Him and thinking on the reality of what you carry. As you do that, be sensitive to opportunities to give into others. Those usually don’t show up at the most convenient moments! At times, God will also give you specific direction. When that happens, don’t ignore it. Be quickly obedient. Move with Him! By doing so, you will be cooperating with Him so that He can increase the size of your oasis and include others within its borders. It is all about staying attentive to the Lord.
For many of us, the Valley of Baca, the desert valley, will be a passing-through place. We change the terrain around us as we keep moving. As we pass through it, we should never leave it the same as it was when we came into it. For some, the desert surroundings they are in may be their life mission. They are planted there. If that is the case for you, take heart. Remember, it is not going to stay a desert. It is going to blossom, as you continue to let the Lord expand your glory-pool outward. In either case, you will eventually find yourself in a fertile place, well-watered by the Holy Spirit and satisfying to your soul.