Hope in the Desert Places

When I think of a hopeless point in my life, I think of the summer of 2017. It was the first day of July, and I had to stop working with horses because I shattered my ankle, which consequently derailed my plans to move to Germany for a year at the end of August. During this time, the relationship that I was in was painstakingly coming to an end, and to tie it all together I was battling depression. All of these circumstances and situations piled on top of me until I couldn’t go to bed without crying myself to sleep. I walked through my life, showing off a perfectly glossy and happy outside while on the inside I had never felt more hopeless, alone, and lost before. I felt like a pysanky egg: a beautifully put together shell but hollow on the inside. During those dark days, I remember crying out to God (or more specifically yelling at Him), asking why He let all of this happen to me. How could He take away my plans with the snap and an ankle? It felt like God had provided a way forward for me only to take it away a moment later. I felt like I was drowning in hopelessness.

It wasn’t until several months later that I realized that God had used my breaking point as a turning point. I was starting to head down a road that was leading me farther away from who God had called me to be, and it wasn’t until I was physically unable to run away that I began to turn back towards the Lord spiritually. It’s hard to see hope in the moment because the tragedy blinds us. Yet when we look back, we are astounded by God’s faithfulness through every season of our lives.

Since those days in 2017, I have learned to praise God through the desert places because it is in the desert that we learn and know holy reliance. When we are stripped bare by the barren ground and scorched landscape, we can hear the voice of the Lord calling out to us. There are no distractions or places to hide. It is only us, the Lord, and the words and emotions that are tumbling out of our hearts. This vulnerable place is where our spirits learn to lean on the Lord, and our hearts learn to hope again.

When you’re walking through the desert place, all you can do is hope for the promised land to come. As your shoes fill with sand, and your throat is scratchy from thirst, you hope against hope that over the next hill there will be the sweet relief of entering into what was promised to you all those years ago. Sandy feet are a sign of expectant waiting, of moving through the barren places by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sandy clothes are a sign of reluctant acceptance, of giving up on what was promised and making a home in the dry and arid places. Don’t let your feet become idle, and don’t let your heart become shrivelled by the heat of bitterness. Building our homes in the desert means losing hope and believing that God won’t fulfil His promises.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6 ESV

It may take us a while, but thankfully the Lord is persistent and won’t leave us in the wilderness; He led the Israelites out, and He will lead you out too. It just might not be in the way you would like. Yet it is in praising the Lord of the desert places that we begin to plant seeds of hope in our hearts. Hope is about looking forward, yet we cannot hope for the future without first finding hope in the past. Only in looking back at God’s faithfulness can we look forward with expectant hope at what He’ll do next. We can’t change what happened in the past; we can only choose to look forward to what new mercies tomorrow will bring.

When I look back on those months of hopelessness, I can see that God was using the wilderness of loss and brokenness to bend and shape me into a stronger person, into a fiercer woman of God. He took the sands of the desert and lovingly buffed away at my heart until it once again beat in time with His own. It is the simple fact that God can take dry, broken bones and bring them back to life that keeps me hoping for the future. Because if He did it once, He’ll do it again. There are no limits to what our Lord can and will do. So my question for you is, do you take hope seriously? Do you genuinely believe that Jesus is the hope for your past, present, and future? And if you do believe that, are you living your life in light of that truth? Hope requires faith to be put into action. You can hope all you want, but if you don’t have faith that God will come through, you’re still building your house in the desert. While the consistency of the desert may become comforting over time it is nothing compared to the land that the Lord has promised you. Don’t let darkness and hopelessness grind away at your bones, instead seek out the Sustainer of life, plant a single seed of hope in your heart and watch what the Lord will do.

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