Monday, January 18, 2016

Desert: the place to find the intimacy with God



My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Psalm 63:1b

One sister wrote to me, confessing that her current inner life is dry and empty and that , regardless of her sincere desire, there are no rivers of living water flowing out of her belly (John 7:38). Well, I think we can relate to her inner experiences on our past spiritual journey. Or perhaps you are also under such situations at this time of your life.
I comforted her and reassured her that her situation is not an abnormal one but it can happen to every follower of Christ at some time or other. I've noticed that for some reasons which He knows, we believers are sometimes guided into the desert.
When Hagar was treated harshly by her mistress Sarai, she "fled from her face" (Gen.16:6b) and went into the desert all alone, weeping and lamenting. However, it is in this desert that His angel "found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness" (Gen.16:7a). Maybe in her normal setting, she could not have experienced such a deep encounter with His presence. So, I encourage all of our dear sisters, especially those who feel emptiness and dryness in their souls, to read the following devotional text in order to be comforted and strengthened.


The Place of Intimacy with God
by James M. Houston

It is not coincidence that the term of "following God" for the Israelites in the Exodus was a desert experience. Our desert is not normally the Sahara or the Gobi, or even the great Australian outback. Our desert is the space to reflect on our shattered dreams, the alienation no touch can connect between even loved ones, the trackless uncertainty of tomorrow, and the experience of inner darkness. There God calls us to Himself, not from our usefulness but for ourselves.

When we say yes to God, He then takes us into the desert. There are no clear directions, nothing systematic, no concrete proposals, no exciting blueprints, no promising opportunities; there is just the promise to be unafraid to be. It is surrender, utterly so. It is docility, whatever the cost. It is divine companionship, regardless of the consequences.

Carlos Carretto acknowledged that the great gift the desert gives us is prayer. The desert is the place of silence before God where the quietness makes the heart's awareness of His presence come closer than our own breathing. In this silence of attentiveness, we listen to God speaking through His Word. Silence becomes stale without the Word, but the Word loses its recreative power without the silence of the desert.

The desert experience is not just an environment for stoicism. It is the place of intimacy with God. It needs the quiet withdrawal--at least temporarily--from the world of men to be alone with God.

It is a reflective dwelling place where one sees things in the light of eternity and therefore in true proportions. It is the removal from agitation, bustle, and speed to see things in stillness. It is where we silence our passions and recede from our tensions.
Like a desert wanderer, we learn to discover the oasis where searching is no longer necessary. There we rest, refreshed and renewed. The desert life has a way of reducing needs to the bare essentials of water, food, and shelter. In the desert alone with God we discover He is enough to satisfy every need. Our only remaining need is simply to need Him more. Of all the lessons the desert teaches, none is greater than finding the intimacy of God.