Ever been completely at your wit’s end? I mean, as if one more step in the wrong direction, one more crisis or emotional roller coaster and you’re done? That tipping point where you can’t decide whether you would rather everything just be scrapped or you just want something to go right to make you feel okay?
I have. Several times. And though those moments, days, weeks, months, and years represent some of the most difficult times of my life, I realize one very ironic and vital truth about what I experienced and learned from them:
God has never wasted the times I had in the desert.
Let me be very clear. Nothing about those times was fun, and many of the issues and things that happened to and around me were painful and damaging. But as I look back, I can see the strength that was provided to me, the redemption that I couldn’t see then, and the hope now that I couldn’t quite accept while I went through (and still go through) desert times.
So why bring them up? Here are a couple of thoughts if you are walking through the grief of tough times, or simply in one of those valleys that doesn’t seem to end:
1. God doesn’t waste a hurt.
My good friend and pastor Francis O’Donnell told me this when I first moved to Missouri, and was walking out of a difficult time where Elizabeth and I needed a ton of healing, and didn’t see much hope in anything. It has stuck with me, because I have seen the validity in it. Those areas that were so tough for us have become areas we now can minister in with other people. Hurt that didn’t seem to want to leave was replaced with purpose God had for us. When we were in the midst of that pain, we didn’t recognize it. Now we do.
2. Grieve, but don’t dwell.
I am guilty of the doing the opposite of this. If I have a loss, a hurt, a defeat, or a failure, there is a tendency to dwell on what has gone wrong in desert times rather than grieve what needs to be grieved, and move on. Like a pig happy to wallow in my own mess, I dwell on the many negatives instead of grieving the hurt in a healthy way, allowing myself to be supported, and then moving forward to what God has for me next. Allow those who are wise around you to help you walk through these times.
3. Communicate what you feel to God.
When we are angry, we like to bottle it up, or go to the other extreme and lash out. But when it comes to God, how many times do we try to be like Adam and Eve and play hide and go seek? He knows our heart, our needs, and our hurts. He knows when we are in the desert place and on the mountaintop. So we should continue to pour out our complaints, our praise, our needs, and our desires to him. Because He cares. Even when we don’t.
And that’s the beauty of the desert. We have a God who mercy is new every morning. Who knows a love without end, who sacrificed all for us, his creation that finds ways to be broken continually, yet loved unconditionally. Remember this, as you walk though the desert.
You are loved.
There are mercies each morning.
There is grace sufficient for you.
And if the desert reminds of us this, it’s why we need it so much.