Because I have spent most of my life in the area that is known as the Sonoran Desert, I have a fair amount of knowledge and respect for the desert. I know a bit about the types of critters that abound in the desert, the weather that is common to the desert, and basically, how to survive in the desert. There are three things crucial to survival in the desert – shelter, food, and most importantly, water. With the intensity of the heat, sun and dryness of the desert, all three are critical. A person will not last long without any of these truly life-saving items, but most especially water. There's no need to fear the desert if you know, have, and utilize, what is needed to survive.
While I've been talking about the physical desert, the same can be said of the spiritual desert. For some time now, I have been in the desert. I have been wandering lost and alone in a spiritual desert that has been dry, intense and void of life. It's been a long journey, and at times I wondered if I would make it. Or would I, like the Israelites before me, perish before I got to the Promised Land?
I'll admit it; there've been times in my Christian life that I've smugly wondered what was wrong with those people. After all, they were God's chosen people! He delivered them from captivity and led them in the way they should go, amid signs and wonders, toward the Promised Land. So, He hung out with just Moses for a bit on Mt. Sinai , that didn't mean He'd abandoned them. Why'd they have to make that stupid golden calf idol? What happened to their faith?
Boy, have those thoughts come back to bite me in the backside! No, I didn't make a golden calf to worship, but that doesn't mean that I didn't lose faith either, because I did. I came to believe I was all alone, that God had abandoned me and that I would die in the desert, having never made it to my Promised Land (if there actually was such a thing).
But you know what? I'm coming out of the desert. I am no longer desert dwelling. And I can see that God neither turned His back on me, nor abandoned me. And like the good Father He is, He lovingly showed me what I did wrong.
I know what is needed to survive in the physical desert (water, food, shelter) and I know that knowing about them isn't good enough, I have to use them. It's the same with the spiritual desert. I know that to survive in a spiritual desert, these things are of utmost importance . . . reading my Bible, prayer and worship. But knowing and doing are two very different things.
I didn't read my Bible. I stopped - completely. I had no interest in it. It wasn't exactly out of rebellion, but rather, when I tried to read my Bible, I felt as if all the promises, all the encouragement, all the love was for everyone else, not for me. Honest! I understand that I (we) have an enemy who is waiting desperately for an opportunity like that, to whisper in my ear, you are nothing, you are worthless, this Book is not for you. But understanding this with my head and feeling it with my heart are two very different things.
I didn't pray. Why would I? After all, I felt as if my prayers were unimportant, wrong and falling on deaf ears. It had been a few years since my prayers were answered the way I thought they should be – whether the prayers were for me, someone else, or a broader situation. I wondered how could I have such a track record of praying wrong? It got to the point that I wouldn't pray for someone because I didn't want to "cause" them to not get what they wanted. Of course, I knew that I didn't actually have that kind of power, but understanding with my head and feeling it with my heart are worlds apart.
I didn't worship. Well, that's not completely true. Like water in the physical is needed more than anything else, and even a small amount will carry you along, worship in the spiritual works the same way. I didn't choose to worship because I never felt like I had it in me to do so. But I did. Even though my flesh was weak and weary, my spirit responded to promptings of worship in church, on the radio and on my Ipod. And those moments, when my spirit responded in spite of me, I was sustained. It got me through. God is wonderful and amazing and He deserves my worship, no matter what I'm going through, but I sort of forgot that. How like Him though to prompt my spirit, with His Spirit, to do the one thing that will carry me through.
What my spirit knew was that in worship, it wasn't about me, but about Him. Worship is about who God is, and who He is doesn't change, no matter where we are or what we're going through. Circumstances can't stand in the presence of God, the Creator of the Universe. We worship God because He is worthy of our worship, but it's for us too. It strengthens us, builds our faith, lifts us up and encourages us. It helps us to go on. Just like we need water to survive in the physical, we need worship to survive in the spiritual. That's true whether we're in the desert, the valley, the Promised Land, on the mountaintop, or somewhere in between. Have you had your worship today?
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. ~ Psalm 100