Desolate Beauty


Gentle Reader,

Vital connection with the Lord is of extreme importance to the life of a Christian. (At least, it should be). Commands abound throughout Scripture to follow God closely and live as He designs. A life of worshipful, obedient submission is marked as the pathway to joy and peace. He does not desire to ruin our good time, but rather to protect us from harm. He knows best.

He adores us, sings over us, calls us, woos us. Sometimes He disciplines us, but out of His unending love.

Then, there are the times when He withdraws any tangible notion of His Presence.

“We walk by faith, not by sight,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7. On this journey of life, we are to operate by what we know to be true, which may be in conflict with our feelings. Do not mistake me – feelings aren’t wrong or bad. Humanity is meant to have emotion, just as God Himself has emotion. However, if we are always prone to follow our emotions, which are heavily influenced by what we “see,” our circumstances, we often end in a wreck. Emotions must be tempered by knowledge.

What about when you feel nothing at all? What about the time when emptiness yawns before you like a great chasm?

Perhaps you have not experienced this. I had not until a few days ago. I cannot hear the voice of God, nor can I sense His Presence. This is terrifying. I have not suddenly repudiated my faith or changed my entire paradigm. For whatever reason, God has chosen to cease an emotional connection with me at the moment. No, emotional connection isn’t even the right phrase. I do not know what the right phrase is.

This makes every thought, every move a deliberate, careful choice. If I cannot sense Him, then crushing doubt lies on my doorstep. Will I choose to believe even when it is not easy? When it is not convenient to do so? Can I lift my hands in praise? Can I affirm the promises of the Bible, even as they seem unfulfilled in my life at the moment? Can I walk with integrity in a desert of shifting sands?

Perhaps this is where theology becomes reality. Who can guess how long a stint in the spiritual desert might last? It is not for any of us to decide. This is part of the mystery of God.

One thing I will tell you: I crave Him as I have never craved Him before. If this season produces within me fervent abiding love for my Savior that I would not have otherwise, then so be it. I do not pretend to be happy to be here. On the contrary, my soul aches. My heart hurts. The entirety of my being is in anguish. Yet, I will dwell in this desert, firmly believing that God brings good out of everything.

As a friend wisely pointed out, there is beauty in the desert. It is filled with light and life. There are blooms, there are animals. There is even an occasional oasis. I think of all the people in the Bible who spent time in a physical desert – Moses, the Israelites, John the Baptist, Jesus. Surely they learned, saw, and experienced things there that were essential.

I do not share this with you to garner sympathy. In fact, I’ll be extremely angry if anyone pities me. I share this with you because I feel that it is of utmost important for a Christian to be as transparent as possible. I love God, but I am not without questions. What do I need to face? Why now? What is the point of this? I may be resolved to go through the desert without throwing things, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be seeking Him out and hammering Him with these questions every day.

I also share this because I think that we tend to doubt a person’s faith and salvation if they experience anything other than daisies and rainbows with God. How many people hide behind a happy-go-lucky demeanor? How many attempt to suppress their questions? How many secretly wonder if they will ever experience the pleasure of the Presence of God ever again? Life is hard, and so is faith – neither of these realities negates the veracity of salvation. Jesus never said it would be easy, and so why on earth do we assume that it must be so?

There is no telling where the path will lead us sometimes. All we can do is walk, clinging tightly to the knowledge that we never walk alone – even if it seems as though we do.