Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Finding God in the Desert, Part 2

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We've read in the Gospel of Mark, chapter one, about the time when Jesus went into the desert. The parallel accounts in the other gospels tell us that for 40 days He went without food...He fasted. It was a time of hunger. The Scripture actually gives us that detail--that at the end of those 40 days He was hungry. It was a time when He was alone. There was no human visible support that He could turn to in the midst of those 40 days.

The Israelites went through years in the desert and they had some very hard times during those years. There was the time when they had no water and then there was the time when they did find water but it was not drinkable water, it was bitter water. Then there was the time when they had no food. Each of those occasions of hardship provided an opportunity for God to be their Provider...for God to meet their needs. But that didn't take away the fact that it was a hard time. The desert is a place of hardship...of deprivation.

I think of a couple, friends of mine, who feel that they are in the will of God. They're serving God in a full-time Christian ministry but they have five children and they're having some enormous financial struggles. They're struggling to make ends meet. They think they're in the will of God as best they know. They're wanting to please God but they're wondering what is God saying through this hardship? What does God want us to do? What are we supposed to do in the midst of this desert?

Now there's another characteristic of our deserts. Many times they are places of intense temptation. We see that when Jesus was in the desert for those 40 days, the Scripture says that He was being tempted by Satan. I don't believe that Satan just came to Jesus at the end of those 40 days and tempted Him. I believe, as I read that passage, that all through those 40 days Jesus was being hounded and badgered and tormented and tempted by Satan. It was, I think, relentless. It was a time of intense temptation and remember... the temptation came when Jesus, as a man, was more vulnerable: being in a weakened human condition, not having eaten, alone all those 40 days. You see...Satan knew that Jesus was alone. He knew that Jesus was physically weak. I believe that Satan saw this as his opportunity to defeat the plan of God. Satan knows when you're weak. He knows when you're vulnerable. That's when he will come and put upon you relentless intense temptation.

So the desert is a place of intense temptation. The desert is also a place of danger. There are dangerous elements in the desert. The Gospel of Mark gives us this one little detail that we don't find in the other gospels. When Jesus went into the desert for those 40 days where Satan tempted him, Mark says in chapter one, verse 13, "He was with the wild animals."

Now I don't know what you think of when you think of those wild animals, but I'm not crazy about wild animals. I travel a lot. I'm in different places and when I go out walking (it used to be jogging, now it's walking) and I see someone walking a dog...this happened two days ago...all those dogs look big and fierce and ferocious to me. I don't like being around wild animals. To me, that's something that causes fear. The Scripture just gives us that little detail that out in the desert, there were wild animals. Now apparently God kept those wild animals at bay and protected His servant--His Son, Jesus--even as He protected Daniel from those lions in the lion's den. But in our deserts we face times of true danger. There are circumstances...there are people...there are things... that happen in our lives that present very real cause for fear.

There's another characteristic that is often true of our deserts and that is that they are frequently prolonged. They don't always just go away in a few minutes like all the problems do on television. But life is not like that. Sometimes our desert experiences are prolonged. Jesus went for 40 days through the desert. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert.

I received a call from a woman last week--she and her husband are both friends of mine. She's married to a man who's a very selfish, angry, ungodly man. She said, as she poured out her heart and wept on the phone, "You can't imagine what it has been like to be married to this man for the past 12 years." Twelve years! That's a long time to be in the desert. That's a long time to be in a marriage to a man who does not fear God.

I think of another friend--a woman whose mother has Parkinson's disease. My friend brought her mother into her home, cared for her there for years, and the past year her mother's had multiple strokes. My friend has been forced to put her mother into a nursing home so she could get the necessary medical care. My friend visits her mother every day, although her mother is not very responsive or communicative. I talked with my friend this past week and I said, "How's it going with your mother?" She said, "She's so angry! She lashes out at me and I'm the only person who really cares for her. But it's so hard to keep going and keep having her be so angry with me." My friend has no idea how long this desert will go on. There's no promise that it will be over next week or next month or next year. Deserts are sometimes prolonged.

And so, we see that deserts often follow times of unusual blessing. Be prepared for it. Expect it. We see that deserts are difficult--they're times of hardship. We see that deserts are times of intense temptation, that there are dangers that come to us in our deserts. And we see that sometimes they go on and on and on.

Now, I don't know how your desert would be described. Your desert may include working for someone who is an impossible-to-please boss. Your desert may have to do with having just made a difficult move. You feel isolated and lonely, separated from friends and those that you know. Your desert may have to do with a time of financial pressure, the loss of a job. It may have to do with a time where you're just going through intense battle with temptation--something you just can't seem to get victory over. Maybe it's a time of spiritual dryness. Your desert may be a time of grief. It may involve the loss of a mate, the loss of a child, the loss of parents...and that doesn't just go away. The grief related to that just doesn't go away as soon as the funeral is over. That goes on and sometimes it can be a prolonged desert.

You may be facing a desert that relates to health issues--chronic, physical problems: maybe not your own health...maybe the health of someone that you love...and you're a primary care giver...and it's a desert--it's a tough experience. You're being squeezed by this experience. It may relate, as we said earlier, to unfulfilled longings for a mate or for a child. Maybe it has to do with unbelieving family members. They don't understand your faith and why this is important to you. Maybe, as my friend shared with me on the phone last week, it's a matter of a painful or difficult marriage; and for some in this room, you know the desert pain of having been rejected and abandoned by the man who faced you at an altar and said he would love you until death do you part...but he didn't keep his word. He broke his promise. And you found yourself in the desert.

All this sounds pretty bleak when you think of all these characteristics of a desert. As we move into the next session, I want us to look at how we end up in the desert and why God allows us to go through those times; but first, I want to remind you that there is beauty in the desert. In fact, I'm told that as you get out into the desert, the darker the night, the more remote the area...the more brightly the stars shine at night. You get into the city and there are lots of competing lights, and sometimes you can't even see the stars at night. But you get out into the desert, and you get a clear view of the beauty of the stars and the handiwork of God in the darkest night.

So, let me remind you that in the midst of the hardships, the difficulties, and the danger, there are some blessings that you will never experience apart from going through the desert. It's in the desert that God wants to reveal Himself...His glory...His grace...His heart...and His ways to you. So don't be afraid. That's where God will meet you.

Leslie Basham: Have you ever gone through a tough time and wondered, why me? God allows us to go into the desert for different reasons. That'll be our topic Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Now, here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss to close our time in prayer.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss:   Lord, some of the women in this room have been in the desert for a long, long time. Some have been walking through difficult, painful circumstances. And for some, there's no end in sight...they're just thinking I am so tired. I don't know that I can go on. Oh, Lord, would You strengthen those who are discouraged? Would you let them know that You care and that You are with them there in the midst of their desert? And I think of Your promise that "Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up with the wings of an eagle. They will run and not be weary. They will walk and not faint"(Isa. 40:31). I don't know how You do that, Lord, but I've seen You do it over and over and over again. In our weakness and in our weariness, You are strong. There's no limit to Your strength. So, Lord, would You infuse grace and strength and hope into the hearts of weary women? Bless them. Encourage them, and may they find a vision of You in the darkest night that is perhaps the brightest vision they will ever see. We thank You in Jesus' Name, amen.

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