It’s 6 a.m. and oldies are streaming quietly out of my small radio/alarm clock. I shuffle sleepily across the room, shut it off, and find myself back in bed. I utter a drowsy prayer thanking God for the new day. I ask Him for help. My season in Christianity’s desert continues.
I think we can all testify to spending some time in our own personal desert. We can all probably speak of that dryness, that spiritual malaise that eventually comes the believer’s way. If you haven’t yet, wait awhile it’ll come. Mine did. And although mine has been insignificant compared to what others have gone through, it’s lasted longer than I would’ve liked. It’s been a time of doubt, discouragement, and frustration that, at its worst moments, seemed to stretch out into eternity.
As is typical of people who are in their deserts, I’ve been asking a lot of questions. Questions that many Christians are familiar with. What should I do with my life? What does God want me to do with my life? Why am I here? Does God really love me? The questioning of God’s love seems to be the devil’s favorite tactic and is by far the most damaging to the Christian.
Like most followers of Christ, I pray. But its tough praying in the desert. When you’re in this stage of life, everything you say to God seems to malfunction about halfway up to heaven. More often than not, I feel like I’m just talking so things won’t be so quiet. Gone are the fragrant and passionate prayers. In the midst of the wasteland all I’ve got are smelly, weak mumbles. Most of the time I just end up saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing. Help.”
But no matter how much I question or doubt, holding fast to two main beliefs helps me through the tough times: 1) There is a God and 2) He happens to be published.
He’s got a book out, a darn good one; however, I doubt we can expect a sequel. I read part of His book everyday. In the mornings I read something from the Old Testament and before I go to bed I read something from the New Testament. It’s my lifeline to the faith. Technically, it’s every believer’s lifeline, but to me— the weary desert wanderer with malfunctioning prayers— it’s all I seem to have. Every time I read from that book of His, I’m reminded of what I know but am unable to sense. I’m reminded there is a God, He is watching over me, and He loves me.
There’s something about the Bible reminding me of these things that’s different from people reminding me. Recently in my Sunday school class, the teacher spent forty-five minutes talking about God’s omniscience and sovereignty. People pulled out verse after verse and read them while the teacher discussed them. I hated it. Not exactly a good Christian attitude, I know, but it’s how I felt at the time. It bothered me that those two attributes were all we focused on. When you’re in your desert, you want a God who is loving and caring, not a God who wills and allows everything, even the bad stuff. Trust me, when you’ve been operating under a darkly fatalistic attitude for awhile, the last thing you want to hear is, “We all just need a little bit more sovereignty!”
The Bible seems to keep things in check, usually never dwelling on only one attribute of God (although the prophets can be rather gloomy). The Bible presents everything in its context. I can’t imagine there being many pages that don’t reveal some attribute of God that relates to His goodness, love or mercy.
Read your Bible. This is my message to my fellow wanderers. When visiting the wilderness it’s easy to feel like you’re alone, but you’re not. I’m right there with you, and despite what the physical evidence may say, so is God. Don’t give up. As uncomfortable as it is to wander, I’d hate to think of what it’d be like to officially throw in the towel. I consider all this an opportunity to learn how this whole Christianity thing works. It’s a lot more complicated than people make it sound. So, until I’ve stumbled out of this wilderness, I plan to keep doing what I’m doing now: persevering. I’m certainly not the best at it, but that’s not what’s important. To me, the most important thing I can do is hold to those two core beliefs, offer up whatever prayer I’ve got on me, and keep on reading that epic bestseller of love and forgiveness.