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Even in the Desert, He Loves You

Nov 13, 2018

If you know me at all, you know I’m a beach lover. Like, a sold-out, obsessed, any-chance-I-get-I’m-there kind of a beach lover. It’s my happy place. A place I can meet with God in utter bliss. I mean, what could possibly be a better setting to experience how much He loves you?

I also collect heart-shaped rocks I find on the beach. To me, they’re little love notes from God, and I have a giant glass jar of them in my living room as a reminder. This past August, I was faced with somewhat of a dilemma. We were dropping our daughter off at college in California, and had a couple of extra days afterward for a quick getaway. Do we go back to the beach again, or try something different? For some reason, I felt unusually drawn to visit the desert…and so we headed off to Joshua Tree National Park.

Truth be told, I loved every minute of it. The sun, the heat, the mountains, the alien-looking cacti and cool creatures I’ve never seen anywhere else. But probably my favorite moment was discovering a heart-shaped rock right in front of me on one of those desert paths. I picked it up, and my own heart swelled as I contemplated this amazing truth, this unexpected lesson at an unforeseen time:

Even in the desert, He loves you.

 

The Bible is full of desert stories. Often, ‘desert’ is interchangeable with ‘wilderness’ or ‘wasteland;’ a place that is stark, barren, and away from civilization. Though a good portion of Israel and its surrounding areas is indeed a literal desert, God also uses desert places in these stories symbolically. Just think of what the word ‘desert’ conjures up for you:

Dry. Empty. Desolate. Lonely. Dangerous.

A place of trial. Hard times, isolation.

Not exactly a place you want to be in. Nevertheless, in the Bible and in real life now, we all find ourselves there at some point. Philosophy professor, Holmes Rolston, (Colorado State University) describes the desert this way:

The wilderness is a locale for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness.

 

  • When Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, the desert was a training ground.
  • For Joshua, it was a battleground.
  • For David, exile.
  • With Elijah, the desert was despair and defeat.
  • With Ezekiel, desolation and judgment.
  • Even for Jesus, it was temptation and trial.

Some people fled to the desert for safety and to escape life’s problems; other times, they were driven there as outcasts, rejected and alone. And sometimes, God Himself led His beloved into the desert!

Why would He do this? Well, to prove something: 

His character.

In the desert, He shows His people that He can be trusted. That He provides. Guides you–carries you, when necessary. That He speaks, and that you can hear His voice.

In the desert, God shows up. He meets you, He cleans you up, attends to you, and brings restoration. And out of those desert encounters, He proves something else:

Your character.

The Father uses the deserts in your life to strengthen you, sharpen you, and refine you. He uses your dry seasons to call you out of your sensory-overload, and when you are acutely aware of the silence and the nothingness of it all, He arouses your desperation to hear His voice once again. And once He has your attention, He cups your face in His loving hands, and speaks tender words of encouragement and hope to your weary soul.

God allows (and sometimes orchestrates) these desert experiences to prepare you for coming opportunities to step into greater authority, more freedom, and a deeper faith. You emerge from that place with a renewed understanding of who God is and what you are made of.

I’m convinced we don’t get there (as much as I would like it if we did) by strolling on the beach. Those beach days are rewards to be cherished and enjoyed, but they don’t cultivate our growth the way the desert does. Perhaps this is why I felt unusually drawn there this summer, when I could have easily chosen my happy place.

Like me, you probably don’t long for growth the way you long for days of fun in the sun, but this is precisely why we need our Father, who knows what is best for us! Because He knows what you are capable of, and is not satisfied with leaving you in your current state. He sees your potential; His dreams for you are bigger than your own.

And He wants to see them realized.

He wants you to experience deeper healing and freedom from the things that hold you back. His Father’s heart longs to connect with yours, so that through this channel, He can pour in more of what you truly need.

And so, He woos you–waits for you–in the dry, desolate, lonely places. And He meets you there.

Because even in the desert–

especially in the desert–

He loves you.

6 Comments

  1. Kathy Griswold

    Dear Michelle,
    All your teachings have blessed me and this morning the most of all. I have just come out of a desert time alone with Papa clinging to a plaque with the words of Psalm 46:10 and sobbing out my hurt to Him. I have felt like I was losing my mind, my heart so heavy and burdened I could not lift my head or get out of bed. He stilled me, showed me things I needed to see – the little girl things that needed healing and He healed them. He showed me people I needed to pray for – and He walked me through my prayers for each one. He showed you. I knew that what I am going through, as bad as it is – and it’s bad – isn’t nearly what you did – and you are still standing and not just standing but being used mightily by Him to help me and countless others stand as well. Your example and your testimony give me hope, hope that I need right NOW and got right NOW when I finally lifted my head and saw your blog. Bless you. As you know I also collect heart rocks and love the beach. I need to learn to love the desert as well and the balance I need to truly be Spirit led and following my Jesus. Thank you for your word in due season. I love you. ❤️

    • Michelle Wuesthoff

      Kathy, thank you so much for sharing your heart! I’m so sorry you have been going through a difficult season! I’ve missed you and love you too, my friend.

  2. John Cheman

    Michelle,
    Thank you for this much needed post! God bless you!

    • Michelle Wuesthoff

      You’re always such an encouragement to me, John! Thank YOU!

  3. Jessie

    i just love that you can find God’s beauty in everything. God wants to speak to us in the way that is best for us if we are open to it. Some may have just walked past a heart shaped rock, but He used it to speak to you. What a reminder that when we are in the deserts in life that we should be open to allow Him to speak to us.

    • Michelle Wuesthoff

      Thank you, Jessie! I think the Father is waiting to surprise us with love notes of one kind or another—ones that will resonate with and speak to our unique hearts. Sometimes he puts them right in front of us, in places we can’t miss, but other times we have to play a little hide-n-seek. Proverbs 25:2 comes to mind:
      “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
      So honored to have you read and comment on my blog!

Even in the Desert, He Loves You