It’s hard to figure out sometimes what is going on when we enter spiritually dry seasons in our lives. Calling this arid, dusty spiritual time a “Desert Experience” makes it seem somehow noble and worthwhile, almost heroic. For those going through the desert, it can be an intensely lonely time and desperate time.
The desert of faith is indeed a dry place. It’s a barren wilderness. God’s voice and presence which was so familiar and close now seems like a distant memory. How is this possible if Jesus promised His followers His Holy Spirit, if He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us? Have we screwed up so badly that God has actually left us?
Jesus never screwed up. After the intense experience of His baptism when heaven opened and Holy Spirit was seen to descend on Him like a dove, the same Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for over a month. For Him, the wilderness was a place of training. He knew His identity and He clung to this as the Devil tried all his tricks to subvert Jesus’s mission and purpose.
Moses was the son of an immigrant and adopted by an oppressive Pharaoh. After committing murder, Moses escaped into the desert. It was here that God called to him through a bush covered in flames, but which didn’t burn up. As he drew near God told him to remove his shoes. The ground was holy. It was almost as if God wanted nothing, not even the soles of Moses’ shoes, to come between them. It was here that God told the murderer his true identity. Moses was going to save his whole nation and become known as the friend of God. The two of them would even speak face to face.
The desert experience need not then be seen as a place of exile or rebuke. In the life of the Christ follower who is earnestly seeking their Lord, it can be a place of communion and training. With no spiritual home-comforts to be a distraction, we must focus our whole being on our search for God. If, as with Jesus and Moses, God has a purpose for drawing us into the dry place, God will also fulfil that purpose. Of this I have no doubt.
“And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from heroes of the faith, from Christ himself.”
This one phrase reminded me that even in the moments of most lonely and desperate prayer we are not alone. Even though we might feel it. Just as when I pray with friends, sketching out with mumbled half sentences what is on my heart, when I run out of words and sigh my “Amen”, they affirm me with their own “Amen”. Out of empathy, it might be as quiet as mine or if I have prayed in defiance against what is being faced, it will be equally defiant.
Is it possible, that when praying your own feeble, whispered, faithless prayer, that you have countless angels around you and Christ himself? That they are hanging on your every word, cheering you on, waiting as your spirit connects with the Holy Spirit. As your spirit in you prays with “groans beyond understanding” they are willing you on, even interceding for you, that you are able to express what you are feeling.
And when you are done, and you breathe your final “Amen”, not knowing if that prayer made any difference at all, in the heavenly realms around you a great roaring Amen resounds from one end of eternity and back again.