If you could choose anywhere to live, would you select the desert? Would you build your dream house—your place of residence—in the middle of the desert, miles from civilization, where the weather is cruel and the isolation painful? I highly doubt you would dwell in a place like this by choice. However, sometimes, along life’s journey—not by choice, but by circumstance—the desert becomes our home.
Years ago, I found myself wandering in the desert—a desert that was longer and harder than any I had ever experienced. Perhaps you’ve been there, too. If we were to describe it, we might use words like: lonely, hot, sticky and long. Hence, it often looks like there is no end in sight. Emotionally, you’re drained! Physically, you’re weak! Spiritually, you’ve hit rock bottom! Consequently, life is not good. With days turning into weeks, you begin to think that the desert will forever be your home.
I’m convinced we all know what the desert feels like to some degree or another. I’m also thoroughly convinced that there are degrees in our desert experiences. Some of them are deeper and more painful than others. Sometimes it feels like a bottomless pit that never ends. Do you want to hear the good news? God has a plan and a purpose for every season of our life— whether we are on top of the mountain, screaming with delight—or deep down in the valley, moaning in despair.
Not coincidentally, the Bible is filled with desert experiences. The nation of Israel lived in the desert for forty years. Before David usurped the throne, the cave was his place of residence. On his way to freedom, Joseph was thrown in prison. Job, described as a man of God, lost everything important to him. The Apostle Paul knew firsthand what loneliness, hunger, pain and suffering was like. And Jesus walked in the desert for forty days. In the Book of Hebrews we read, “…Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground” Hebrews 11:35-38.
The best part is that Hebrews 11 doesn’t end on such a bleak note. Listen to what Hebrews 11:40 says: “God had planned something better….” Indeed He did! So, why did God choose for His beloved people to wander in the desert? Why did He choose such a hard and difficult road? Well, I would like to take you on a journey with God’s people through the wilderness for the next several months. Not only will we examine the life and times of the Israelites’ forty-year desert excursions, but we will also travel with other men and women of God who seemed to have difficulties along life’s pathway. I’m convinced that this study will inspire you, encourage you, and give you hope during your own desert experience.
I hope you’re excited for this adventure we are about to embark upon. It should be rewarding for all of us.