the desert is what you make it

I have been following the story of Abby Riggs. She's a beautiful little girl with a big, big heart, an even bigger family, and a big fight on her hands- with leukemia. I read their blog every day for a couple of reasons. One... I pray for Abby multiple times during the day, as does Tali who's taken a fondness for this little girl she's only seen in pictures, and we like to know specifically what to pray for. The other reason... it is one of the most ENCOURAGING, inspirational blogs out there. Despite the fact that this family is facing one of the single most difficult set of circumstances a family can be put in, and the doctor's grim use of percentages and statistics... they have a hope in Christ that allows them to Praise Him in all things, even in the desert. It was as I read their blog about a week ago I first heard the Lord whispering, the desert is what you make it.

He confirmed this Word last Friday night as I sat talking to some of my very favorite Christian sisters about being in the desert, and no sooner had I shared this Word than a phone rang, and the person on the other end shared a sermon he had just heard about the desert and that in many ways, the desert is what you make of it. She was like Becky just said that! Blow my mind, God!

And then He drove the point completely home as I met with a client... a young girl who was in an accident that has left her paralyzed. Her paralysis is complete from the waist down. Life in a wheel chair, and at an age that is difficult under the best of circumstances. As I asked her about her injuries she looked me straight in the eye and informed me "I am not disabled. I just can't walk". Here she is, with every excuse in the world to feel sorry for herself. Three months ago she was like every other kid in her class, and then her world was turned upside down. No one would fault her a bit for being mad at the world, or the situation, or the people that she was with when the accident happened. No one would fault her for questioning God, or lashing out at her family, or alienating herself from friends. But instead she chooses to laugh because she realized while going for a stroll with friends that it was down hill all the way home- and her friends couldn't keep up with her.

What is she making of her desert? I have seen many, many people completely give up on life when things like this happen. I have seen people lose loved ones and give up on God. I have known of people who got sick and sank into a sea of depression. I know people who complain every day about everything that's wrong with their life, despite the fact that their families are healthy, they have a job, they can walk and talk and breath.

I can't help but think about the Israelites- led out of slavery and into the desert by God. He took them there, why? Because He wanted them to rely fully on Him and to learn to trust His word. He provided for them with food, water, light, clothes that never wore out... He met every need. Yet what did they make of their desert? They whined and groaned and complained. They grew bored with the food provided by the very hand of God. They asked to go back into slavery! They built false idols out of the gold and silver God had provided for them to take from Egypt!!! Think about that!

They made a mess of their desert. They made forty years of their desert. Had they trusted God and followed Moses, they could have made the journey in about two weeks! But instead they whined their way into forty years in the desert. They shook their fist at God and questioned His provision.

But it's easy for me to look at the Israelites and say "what in the world were you thinking!? I mean, really, He gave you manna from heaven! He was present with you in the pillar of fire! He invited you to know Him! What in the world were you thinking!?"

And then God directs my attention to my own life, and asks me to examine what I've made of my desert seasons. We all have them. We all have dry spells where we feel broken, alienated, alone, unloved, weary, afraid. Sometimes God has to take us into the desert to get us where He wants us to go. The Israelites could not get from the land of slavery to the land of milk and honey without passing through the desert- physically and spiritually. God's promise from the beginning of Exodus is that He will deliver His people into the Promised Land...but He knew they'd have to go through the desert to get there. He knew it would be necessary to prepare their hearts for the many blessings He was ready to pour out on them, so that they would not forget that He is the LORD, provider, deliverer, healer, restorer, creator.

Are you in the desert? What are you making of it? Are you shaking your fist at God and asking why He would deliver you from the slavery of sin and death in the the lonely heat of the desert? Are you crying and whining because the only thing you have to eat is the manna He provides you with, and what you really want is a steak? Are you taking the gold and silver He has on loan to you, and melting it into a golden calf?

Or are you taking the time to glorify Him? To spend time in His presence? To meet Him in the desert as Hagar did? Are you using the time to feast on His Word and learn more about Him? Are you praising him in the midst of the sand storm raging around you? Abby's mom and dad have taken the opportunity to tell even more people about Jesus. To share their hope in Him, regardless of what God's will for Abby's beautiful life turns out to be. And they are far from the only ones. There is a whole community of bloggers out there praising Jesus despite the struggles and tragedies in their lives. I encourage you to follow the link to Abby's blog, pray for her, and be encouraged.

Then think about your life. What have you made of your deserts? If you are there now, what are you making of it? He is there alongside you, whispering "follow me, trust me, know me, rely on me." Lean into Him, allow Him to carry you through this time... and make the most of your desert.

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