Years ago, I flew out west to attend a writers’ conference. As the plane banked in its approach to the runway, I caught a glimpse of the dry, barren, rocky terrain below. As a native South Carolinian accustomed to lush, green landscapes, I was unimpressed, and slightly depressed, by this uninviting, drab, and seemingly lifeless desert vista.
Yet the woman beside me exclaimed, “Isn’t it the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen?”
I looked at her closely to make sure she wasn’t joking, but her eyes were bright and a joyful smile lit her face.
“It’s very different from where I live,” I mumbled.
“I grew up here,” she said. “It’s always so exciting to catch this first glimpse of home.”
While this New Mexico native relished a return to the desert, not many of us are happy to encounter parched places in our lives. For you, a desert place may be a lack of motivation or enthusiasm, a period of depression or grief, a health condition, spiritual doubts, or exhaustion from over-scheduling. Whatever the source of your dry spell, sometimes life feels like a wander in the wilderness.
Here are some ways to power through a wilderness journey and reignite forward motion:
Our bodies are about 75% water, yet many people are chronically dehydrated because they don’t drink enough water. Often, you don’t realize your body is insufficiently hydrated until you have symptoms, like headache, nausea, and fatigue. In fact, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated.
Dehydration also exists in other areas of life. Perhaps you are emotionally depleted or your creativity is at its lowest ebb. Or maybe you’re drained dry from the ongoing struggles of a difficult relationship. Spiritually dehydration robs you of valuable insights and wisdom in navigating life’s difficulties, yet many are spiritually parched and don’t even realize it.
Rehydrating your body, heart, and mind takes time and effort. It may involve forgiving, changing thought patterns, or taking a deep dive into Bible study and prayer. It might be a while before the symptoms dissipate, but don’t stop the process until replenishment is complete.
As a child, I remember going to high school football games with my parents. Because I didn’t understand the game, sitting there for hours was a tedious exercise in boredom. But one night, my dad took a pair of binoculars to the game. He helped me fit them to my eyes and showed me the wheel that adjusted the focus. Suddenly, the green grass of the field, the “pigskin,” and the players came into focus. I could even see facial expressions. Seeing what was happening through a different lens lent clarity to the action and held my attention.
When you experience a parched place in life, it’s hard to see beyond cracked intentions and desolate dreams. The landscape of the way you expected things to be is rocky, barren, and depressing. Maybe you even feel a little sorry for yourself. Surely others aren’t dealing with circumstances as difficult as yours!
Now is the time to refocus. The only way to move forward is to find something that serves as binoculars, adjusting your vision and refocusing on positives. You may need someone—a counselor, minister, or trusted friend— to help you adjust your focus to a place beyond your current desert location. Don’t wait to ask for assistance. Your vision is about to improve.
Nothing feels better on a hot day than a cold drink of water or a dip in a crystal blue pool. Many times our souls are in need of refreshment. The challenges and struggles of life can seem insurmountable at times, leaving you exhausted and weary. Splash some water on tired expectations. Assess, renew, or create goals. Take time to review accomplishments. Consider attending a conference or retreat. Remind yourself of blessings. Find an oasis in the midst of your circumstances. Like taking a bath and putting on clean clothes, refresh your thoughts by changing patterns, addressing habits, and challenging your mind.
For the most part, a desert landscape is bleak and drab, a monotonous monotone. But if you look closely, you’ll catch a glimpse of flecks of color—the brilliant bloom of a cactus flower, a flicker of orange, green, or red from a desert bird. As you journey through a wildness season, look for signs of life in the parched places and beauty among the thorns. And don’t forget to give thanks for hints of renewal.
One of the problems with staying in the desert too long is you begin to see or imagine things that aren’t really there. You see a mirage of people talking about you or imagine scenarios of what ifs. You hear a voice saying things will never improve. You wander aimlessly instead of asking for help.
Over time, desert animals adapt to their surrounds. The iguana is a master of camouflage. The prairie dog escapes the heat by burrowing. The camel hoards water in his hump. But be careful that you don’t adapt to the point you never leave your desert place. When you don’t try to move beyond a dry season of life, you naturally distance yourself from others and run the risk of misinterpreting why God is allowing your experience.
Although God may teach you important lessons during a spiritual dry spell, don’t be content to remain in a place of desolation. Power past embarrassment or perceived responses and meet with friends or a support group. Talk about your wander in the wilderness and ask for help to brainstorm a way out. Pray, asking God for direction and courage. With determination, find your way to the nearest watering hole and begin the process of rehydration. Refocus, refresh, renew, reconnect, and take the first steps forward out of your desert sojourn.
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT)