Welcome to Week 4 of The Desert Shall Rejoice, a six-week Lenten blog series. Each week of Lent, I am sharing a reflection, providing a Scripture passage to read and meditate on, and offering journal questions for deeper prayer with Jesus. You can read Week 1 HERE, Week 2 HERE, and Week 3 HERE.
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; … it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)
I walked into her comfortably familiar office and plopped down on the oversized chair. That chair, that office, I tell you, has some sort of power. Because as I turn to face the woman whom I have come to trust with my weary heart, I simply fall apart.
Maybe, come to think of it, it’s not the chair or the office. It’s the woman who listens, who prays, and who cares. And the power is hers only because she knows it is a gift from God.
As I compose myself long enough to string a few words together, I share all of the pent up anger, frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness I feel. As I think back to the 10 minute walk to her office, the tears return. I wasn’t even aware that I was feeling all of the emotions. It wasn’t until I was in a place I knew I could express them without judgement … in the sacred space of spiritual direction.
Vibrant, Radiance Shooting Out
Pouring out my heart, Liz listens and maybe nods a few times. But she lets me talk; she lets me be silent.
At one point, I cry out, “I don’t understand what God is doing.”
She asks a clarifying question or two, but her questions simply help me be honest with myself and clarify my thought process.
And when I am done talking, she offers affirmation and encouragement. She recognizes the realness of my struggle. She wants me to acknowledge it, too, instead of trying to push it aside and present a “normal” facade. The work I am doing is necessary work, she says. And while I may be in a desert now, she sees vibrant and radiant blooms shooting out all around me.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
How can that be? How can God be doing a new thing and how can life be springing forth when I feel so dry and empty?
Because “God is at work in our lives in countless ways we may never see.” (Fr. John Burns//Lift Up Your Heart)
And not only do we have our own life experiences to draw from, but we have accounts all through Scripture of the handiwork of God.
He brings sight to the blind (Luke 4:18), sets captives free (Isaiah 61:1), forgives sins (Luke 7:48), restores order (John 16:33), heals illness (Mark 5:41), raises the dead (John 11:25), and makes the desert bloom (Isaiah 35:1).
Yes, God is doing a new thing in me. And be assured, He is doing a new thing in you, too.
This Lent, as we continue to journey through the desert, whatever dryness, emptiness, or hopelessness we may feel, let us take a step in hope and cling to God’s promise that He is at work, doing something new.
Do you not perceive it?
Take a few moments to quiet your heart. Breathe in and out.
After reading the verse once, read it one or two more times.
What stands out to you? A word, feeling, thought …
Imagine your desert. Does the landscape actually look like a desert—dry, barren, desolate? Or does it look like a winter garden—frozen, gray, bitterly cold?
Take a moment to picture yourself there.
What brought you there? What keeps you there?
As you walk around, imagine Jesus begins to walk alongside of you. Feel His presence. Feel His companionship.
Who speaks first—you or Him? Or do you keep a comfortable silence?
Eventually, He leads you to a spot in the middle of your desert. You are surprised to see lush green life peaking through. Is it a small spot, or is it large?
In that spot, you feel warmth. You feel hope. And for a few moments, you suddenly see flowers shooting up from the ground and swirling around you.
It is a glimpse. But it is one you hold onto you, as you continue to journey in the desert.
Journal about your experience. Then, at the end of your journaling time, spend a few minutes in silence or rest. Simply be still and be present to God.
Heavenly Father, You are a God of promise. You are faithful, and You are good. All throughout the Bible, You show me over and over again how much You long to restore, renew, and replenish what is broken. Even in my own life, when I look back, I can see how You have been faithful to me in personal ways. Lord, as I continue to journey through Lent, help me to be mindful of Your presence. Help me to be open to all that you want to teach me and show me. Renew my spirit, Lord. Refresh my weary soul. Restore my vision, that I may perceive the new thing that springs up, that I may rejoice, even in the middle of the desert. Amen.