Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Surviving the Desert

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says when you're in an emotionally dry place, take some practical steps.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Remember the presence of God. Review the purposes of God. Rehearse the promises of God. Receive the provision of God, and then rejoice in the plan of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, September 23.

For the last couple of weeks we've been in a series called Walking Through Life's Deserts. If you missed any, you can catch up by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com .

Today we'll learn some survival skills. What are the first things you need to do when you enter your next desert? Here's Nancy.

Nancy: Well, we've spent these last couple weeks talking about the desert, the fact that we all have desert experiences. You may be in one right now, and I hope if you are, that God has given you some hope and some encouragement, perhaps some perspective.

It helps to get perspective when you're in the desert, to realize this is not because God hates me. It's not because God's mad at me. It's because God loves me and that God has a purpose and a plan for my life in the desert.

If you know somebody who's going through a desert, you may want to order this series for them and give it to them as an encouragement to help give them some sense of what God may be doing, what God may be saying in their desert. If you have felt like this is a series you didn't relate to, just hang on. You will. There will be desert experiences in your life as there are in all of our lives.

We've talked about why God sends us into the desert and what God's purposes are in the desert and ways that we can respond to the desert, but I want to bring this series to a close by talking about how to survive in the desert. In fact, I want to do one better than that, not just how to survive in the desert, but how to thrive in the desert.

I want us to remind ourselves—and let me say, sometimes when I'm teaching these things, you must think that this is all easy for me to live. I'll just assure you it's not.

Often when I'm sitting here teaching, I am preaching myself under conviction. I'm counseling my own heart with the truth, and that's why I love my job. I love what I get to do because I need this truth, and I need to keep preaching the gospel to myself, the good news about God's ways and God's purposes and Christ's redeeming love and grace in my life. I need to hear that, so when I teach these things to you, I'm really thinking about my own deserts, the challenges in my own life.

I don't know about your deserts, but I know something about mine. I have learned that it really is possible not only to survive in the desert, but to thrive in the desert. I want to give you five things that will help you survive and thrive in the desert, and it's really just kind of putting a bow around what we've been talking about the last couple of weeks, tying it together.

Number one, remember the presence of God. When you're in the desert, remember the presence of God. I think maybe the five most encouraging words in all of God's Word, certainly five words that are repeated almost more often than any others, “I will be with you,” or forwards, “I am with you. I will be with you. I am with you,” the promised presence of God.

Over and over again in the Scripture when God's men or women were afraid in the face of dangerous circumstances, hopeless circumstances, impossible tasks, God said, “Don't be afraid. I will be with you. Don't be afraid. I am with you,” over and over again. It's as if God was saying, “That's all the answer you need,” and we're wanting more answer than that.

We're wanting to say, “Well, how are You going to do this? How are You going to get me out of this? How are you going to provide? How are you going to give me water in my wilderness? How are you going to bring food? How are you going to bring this? How are you going to solve that?” And God says, “I'm not going to give you all those answers. All you need to know is I am with you. I'm with you now, and I will be with you each step of the way through this desert.”

As I've been working through this series on the deserts, I've been so encouraged by Scriptures that talk about God's presence with us and His provision for us in the midst of the deserts. Think about that passage in Exodus 13 where the Children of Israel were in the desert. God had led them into the wilderness, and it says,

The LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people (vv. 21-22).

What were the cloud and the fire? Was it just meteorological phenomena? It was the presence of God. Now they had the visible presence of God, and we think, “Oh, if I could just have that pillar of cloud or that pillar of fire, well then I could trust God.”

Well, the Israelites didn't, but we have something better. We have the Holy Spirit who lives in us, Christ in us. “I am with you always.” Whatever God calls you to do, whatever He calls you to walk through, whatever the challenge, whatever the hurdle, whatever the difficulty, however prolonged the desert, remember the presence of God.

Then number two, review the purposes of God. As you're in your desert, review the purposes of God. We talked about several of them in this series. Let me just run through them once.

God sends us into the desert:

  • to test us 
  • to humble us  
  • to teach us 
  • to develop faith, to strengthen our faith muscles 
  • to make us dependent on Him rather than on ourselves or others 
  • to strip us of self-reliance 
  • to prepare us for future ministry and service 
  • to build endurance 
  • to condition us for future battles 
  • to show us His glory and His grace 
  • to get us to Jesus

As you're in your desert, review the purposes of God. It'll help your perspective to remember that God does have a purpose in this. Even if I'm not sure what that purpose is at this moment, in this situation, God does have a purpose. Review His purposes.

Then number three, rehearse the promises of God. Rehearse the promises of God. Let me just read to you some promises that have been a mainstay in my life through many different desert experiences.

We have a little booklet called "Promises to Live By." We want to make that available to you. We'll tell you later in the program how you can get a hold of that, but these are just promises that have been precious to me in my desert experiences. Let me read some of them to you.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved (Ps. 55:22).

Rehearse God's promises.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26).

Rehearse God's promises.

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! (Ps. 27:14 NKJV).

I find myself at times, when I'm discouraged or disheartened or fearful or overwhelmed with my desert just sometimes going to God's Word and reading these promises aloud. Read them. Rehearse them.

Psalm 93—I love this one.

The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. [You ever find yourself there? Maybe it's not a desert; it's a storm. Here's the promise.] The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea (vv. 3-4 KJV).

I rehearse God's promises, and my heart is strengthened. I am encouraged. These waves are mighty, but God is mightier yet. He's bigger than these waves. He is greater. He is in control.

Psalm 91—wonderful promise of God in this passage that have brought hope and encouragement to the hearts of so many of God's children in their desert experiences. Psalm 91, verse 2:

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler" (vv. 2, 4 NKJV).

All the way through God's Word there are promises—promises for God's children in distress, promises for God's children when they are overwhelmed, promises for God's children when they feel helpless and hopeless. They have nowhere to turn, no hope, no resources of their own. Rehearse the promises of God and remember that God keeps His Word. God is faithful.

Sometimes when I'm in my distress, I just think back on past times when I was in distress, and I think about how faithful God was, how He kept His promises. In 40-some years that I have walked with the Lord, God has never failed to keep His Word—never, and I tell myself, “He's not going to start now.”

Not only has He been faithful to me for over 40 years, but He's been faithful to everybody else I know. I go to God's Word, and I find other people, scores of them, who found God's promises to be true. Rehearse them. Rehearse God's promises and believe them.

Then number four, receive the provision of God. If you want to not only survive but thrive in your desert, receive the provision of God. God took the Children of Israel into the desert. God took His Son, Jesus, into the desert.

We saw earlier in the series that the desert is a place of hardship, a place of deprivation. There are times when you do without. The Israelites faced times where they had no water. They had no food. They needed protection from the enemies, but every time, God provided. The Israelites just had to receive God's provision.

God has a provision for you in your desert, and it may be supernatural. You say, “Well, that's those days.” Has God changed?

If God needs to send ravens to bring bread to you in your hungry times as He did for Elijah in that time of drought, God can send ravens. God's big enough to do that. Now I'm not saying that's His normal way of providing. That wasn't His normal way of providing for Elijah, but God can provide however He wants. God will provide for you in your desert if you'll receive His provision.

Deuteronomy 29, God says, “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (v. 4 NIV). That was miraculous.

You say, “We don't have money to buy clothes for our kids. How are they going to last?” Well, God can make those clothes last longer, or He can provide new clothes or old clothes or plenty of clothes from some means, from some source that you may have never dreamed would be a possibility. Go back and think about how God provided for the Israelites—water and bread and meat and protection and shoes and clothes—all that they needed. Receive God's provision.

Jesus was with the wild animals in His desert, Mark one tells us. Not only did God protect Him somehow miraculously from those animals, but Mark one gives us this little detail, “And the angels were ministering to him” (v. 13). Some of your translations say, “Angels attended Him.”

“Angels attended Him.” Now I don't know if Jesus could see those angels. I don't know if He could hear them. I don't know if they talked to Him. They could have. God did sometimes send angels to make visible appearances and to talk. I don't know how they ministered to Him, but I know they did.

You say, “Well, that was Jesus. I'm me.” Here's the wonderful thing we read in Hebrews chapter 1, verse 14, that angels were not only sent to minister to Jesus, but they're sent to minister to us. Hebrews one, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (NIV).

It's the same word used there when it says they're ministering angels sent to serve. It's the same word used in Mark one that says, “The angels ministered to Jesus.” They attended Him.

It's a word that means to serve, to wait upon someone, to meet someone else's needs, like a waiter comes to your table and serves you your meal. He gets you what you need, gets you what you don't have. Angels attended Jesus. They waited on Him in the desert, and Hebrews one says God sends angels to attend to us, to wait on us.

Now we have a lot of talk about angels today—a lot of foolish and unbiblical talk about angels today. In rejecting that teaching, we don't want to miss out on the true teaching of God's Word that angels are real, and God sends them as messengers to serve His people.

I've never seen an angel as far as I know. I've never heard an angel speak as far as I know, but I know as sure as I'm sitting here, that many, many times in my life, God has sent angels to attend to my needs. They've come in many forms. I think most of the times I've had no clue that it was an angel or that it was angelic provision.

I don't know how God does this, and if I say anything more than what I just said, I'm going to be in trouble because we're in the realm of mystery here. God hasn't revealed to us how He does this, but I know He does. I receive God's ministry of angels in my life.

At times when I feel like there is no one else that can meet needs, no other source of my needs being met, I lift my eyes up to the Lord, and my heart says, “Lord, I know if nothing else, Your angels will be here to minister to my needs.” God does lift my heart. He lifts my spirit. He redirects my thinking. He ministers to my needs—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, and I believe sometimes He uses His angels to do that.

Regardless of how He provides, we can all say, “All I've needed, Your hand has provided. Great is Your faithfulness, Lord unto me.” I sing that hymn over and over and over again when my heart is heavy, when my heart is discouraged, when I'm weary in my desert, when I'm tired of plodding through the desert, when I can't see an end to the desert. I sing, “All I have needed,” Lord, as I look back, “Your hand has provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” Receive God's provision.

Then finally, rejoice in the plan of God. Remember the presence of God. Review the purposes of God. Rehearse the promises of God. Receive the provision of God, and then rejoice in the plan of God.

Let me say two things about that. First of all, rejoice that the desert is not forever. It may seem like it's forever, but it's not. The desert that you're in right now, or the desert you will be in next is not the end of the journey. It's not the final destination. It's en route to the final destination.

I've spent a lot of time over the years in airports, waiting to make a connection from one city to the next. There's nothing I love about airports. I mean, they all look the same, but it helps me to know that this isn't my final destination—most nights. There have been a few times when I ended up spending the night in the airport probably over the years, but generally that's not your final destination.

Even if you spend a night there, presumably by the next day you're going to be at your destination, so if you thought that airport with those hard seats and that horrible food was your final destination, you'd be pretty discouraged. If you thought this desert was your final destination, you'd be pretty discouraged.

Cheer up! Rejoice in the plan of God. The desert is not forever. It's not the end of the journey.

A friend wrote to me recently about an incredible battle that she has experienced over a period of years with an area of sexual temptation. She's a woman who loves the Lord, but she opened her life early on when she was a younger woman to some areas—stepped over some lines she should not have. As a result, she experiences, at times, intense temptation in some moral areas. She just wants to know what God wants to teach her in this desert and how to not only survive but thrive in this desert.

I wrote back to her as I was working on this series. I was thinking about this, and I said, “Just remember, no desert is forever. One day, only a moment from now, in the light of eternity, all this will be behind us—no more struggle, no more temptation, no more sin, no more twisted thinking, no more deception, no more falling.”

She talked about the discouragement of how often she falls in this area. Just think—now this isn't the only thing I would say to this woman, but it's one thing we need to remind ourselves of. Remember that it's not forever—no more falling, only eternal rewards for faithfully pressing on and pursuing Him through the deserts.

Keep your eyes on that. It will encourage your heart when you're in your desert to remember that it's not forever. Then rejoice in the plan of God that one day He has promised that He will turn the desert into a garden. The desert will not always look like it does. One day it will bloom. It will blossom.

I think of some of those cities in California. You know, parts of California and other desert-like terrains were not meant to be inhabited, I don't think. The terrain is just so rough. Nothing can live, and people don't survive well in true desert environments.

You have to have water. You can't live without water. There's some of those places in the California desert where, through means of an aqueduct, they have brought water in, and the desert has been transformed into a garden.

Somebody sent me a picture through email the other day while I was working on this. It was this gorgeous photo of a valley about 50 miles east of Bakersfield, California. It's a desert valley, but it had rained. That valley was just covered with these gorgeous wild flowers—beautiful, beautiful colors!

What a picture! I wish I could show it to you. Just picture it in your mind and know that your desert, as dry and arid and barren as it seems right now, when God sends the water of His Spirit in His time, to water that desert, it will become a garden, something of great beauty.

Exercise faith, and here's the way God's Word says it in Isaiah chapter 41,

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel will not forsake them (v. 17). 

[Ladies, He will not forsake you in your desert.] I will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water (vv. 17-18).

[And what's the purpose?] They they may see and know that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it (v. 20).

Someday when our lives are blossoming in all their intended fullness and for all of eternity the desert is behind us and we live in that forever blooming and blossoming and beautiful garden of the presence of God, Eden restored, we will look around, and we will say, “God has done this. Isn't God great? Isn't He good? He's merciful. He led me all the way through that wilderness. And now for all eternity, I get to enjoy the fruit of what He taught me there in the desert.”

Leslie: What incredible hope! So many people enter the desert, which just means they enter difficult, emotionally dry times, and they don't survive. They get lost. They become bitter or angry.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has given hope that the next time you enter the desert, you cannot only survive, but grow and thrive. She'll be right back to pray that your desert will bloom.

One of Nancy's points today says we need to review God's promises. Will you do this by reading a booklet she wrote called "Promises to Live By?" It's a listing of Scriptures that contain promises from God. It will encourage you to dwell on things God is going to do and lift your eyes above immediate problems. We'll send you a copy of this booklet,"Promises to Live By," along with the CDs of our current series Walking through Life's Deserts, for a donation of any amount. The CDs include quite a bit of bonus material that didn't air this week.

Now remember, today marks the end of this important series, so call while it's still on your mind. To order the CDs and booklet, call 1-800-569-5959. You can also take up this offer when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy: Oh Father, I pray that You would encourage some woman who's listening who's discouraged, and she's wanted to give up, wanted to throw in the towel. Lord, I've felt that so many times myself, even in this ministry. There've been so many times of being tempted to give up, but I thank You that You have purpose in the desert.

I pray that You would strengthen and encourage the heart of that one who's walking through a desert today, that she would remember Your presence. She would review Your purposes. Help her to rehearse Your promises and to believe them. Help her to receive Your provision, and then help us, Lord, all to rejoice in Your wonderful plan—a plan and the promise that one day the desert will blossom.

It will bloom forever, and all will see and know and consider and understand that God has done this. May You be glorified in our lives even when we're in the midst of the desert. Help us not only to survive the desert but to thrive in it that Jesus may be magnified through our lives, and we pray in His great name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.