Sunday, July 22, 2012

The desert place

I can remember in former days when my burdens were light enough that I could unload them on a confidant, take a nap, or have a good cry and they were out, gone, sufficiently processed. No longer. It would seem that with age not only comes more responsibility, but bigger and heavier burdens. Is this revelation part of spiritual growth? Or simply an inevitable part of growing older and finding life is simply harder than you thought? Perhaps both.

Either way, there are growing pains, and I'll be straight--I wish I could skip it--this whole growing up thing, both actually and spiritually. But, I can't, and I know I truly don't wish to. Everyone must grow up, I just wish it didn't have to be so hard. Yet, I know there is no growth without opposition. No refinement without trial.

James, the author of the epistle affirms this when he writes, "Count it pure joy my brothers when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (1:1-4) There's a purpose behind all of it--our growth and ultimate completeness in Christ.

It's learning to trust Him in the trial that's hardest. Knowing and trusting that there is purpose in the pain. Scripture says God disciplines those He loves, just like a father disciplines his children, so our heavenly Father disciplines us. And if I'm a child of the King I know I must go through the desert.

I don't like the desert. I wish there was a different way, but it's His way. His way is through the wilderness. He takes us into the desert to minister to us: to strip us of all comforts, of all things that keep us from Him alone, to refine, to test our hearts, to produce steadfastness. The desert is unfortunately necessary. And sometimes the desert lasts a long time, but we must remember James' words: "Count it pure joy my brothers whenever you meet various trials..."

Inasmuch as I might ponder going back to when my burdens were lighter, or my trials were fewer, or when deserts were gardens--I would never go back to knowing my Lord less. As the Psalmist said, "Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, my salvation and my God."

I shall praise Him in the desert place.

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