Desert Springs

Springs in the Desert

No difficulties in your case can baffle him, no dwarfing of your growth in years that are past, no apparent dryness of your inward springs of life, no crookedness or deformity in any of your past development, can in the least mar the perfect work that he will accomplish, if you will only put yourselves absolutely into his hands and let him have his own way with you.–Hannah Whitall Smith, speaker and author

Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
 He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV)

Water is a primary metaphor used in the Bible to help illuminate the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. In both the physical and spiritual realms, water represents the essence of our existence. And, as it is with liquid H2O, the presence of the Holy Spirit is always associated with life. Where His presence is lacking, spiritual famine ensues.

I am not sure how we arrive at such conclusions, but it is common for Christians to believe that God leads them into spiritually dry seasons. As subtle as the difference may seem, we must make a distinction between travelling through a dry environment, and being dry within our hearts. Just as God led the nation of Israel through the desert, so He will sometimes guide His children through dry, desolate places. But the Bible is absolutely clear: He never wants us to be dry in our hearts!

If we are spiritually parched, He is not to blame. The only wise option is to take personal ownership of the issue rather than blaming it on the mystical work of a sovereign God.

We must wonder, then, what causes our spirits to wilt with barren dryness. In most (if not all) cases, the culprit is misplaced trusta reality much more dangerous than it sounds. Idolatry—a spiritual condition detestable to God—amounts to putting someone (or something) other than God on the throne of our hearts, either as an act of adoration, or in trust as the source of our provision. Because God is invisible, and idols physically tangible, we are tempted to look to idols to meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

For seventeen years, I worked in the laboratory of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company (R&P). At first, things were great as the company prospered—even making the Fortune 500 list one year. Unfavorable economic changes, however, led to a long string of layoffs, culminating with the sale and closing of the company. For almost a decade, my coworkers and I lived under the burden of economic uncertainty, watching others lose their jobs and finding ourselves anxious about our own futures. To put it bluntly: in spite of a decent salary, it was a miserable ten years to be working for R&P.

During that wilderness season, I realized I had a choice. I could attempt to put my trust in the very human managers of the R&P Coal Company, or I could focus on my heavenly Father as the source of my provision. Yes, God was able to use my company to provide for my family, but He wasn’t limited to do so. If the provision from R&P was to dry up, He would surely lead us to another financial stream to care for our needs.

Subsequently, I chose to move from a full-time to a part-time basis (thereby losing my benefits and taking a big pay cut) to pursue a poorly paying career in college ministry. When the company finally closed its doors two years later, I launched into a career of Christian ministry without filing for unemployment. Provision came through a variety of sources, but we never found ourselves in a position where we couldn’t pay our bills.

Economics are a very real issue for all of us, but idolatry isn’t limited to just money. We can attempt to put other people in the place of God, expecting them to love us in a way that only He can. Many a romantic relationship has ended because an individual in search of a god discovered only a human instead.

Yes, God may indeed lead us through dry environments, but if we are dry in our souls, the problem is ours and not His. Someway, somehow, we are placing the weight of our trust in someone or something humanly tangible.

May we fully grasp the truth of our Father’s promise: the hearts of those who cultivate faith toward Him will always be well-watered gardens, overflowing with abundant life!

This post is drawn from Chapter Thirteen of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers

photo credit: FLIKR_0413 via photopin (license)