The desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you. Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self.
The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he’s the only game in town. You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The clear, fresh water of God’s presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart. The best gift of the desert is God’s presence. We see this in Psalm 23.
In the middle, as I go through “the valley of the shadow of death,” he is next to me—“ I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (verse 4). The protective love of the Shepherd gives me the courage to face the interior journey.
When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story. Paul tells us to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4: 2). Thanksgiving helps us to be grace-centered, seeing all of life as a gift. It looks at how God’s past blessings impact our lives. Watchfulness alerts us to the unfolding drama in the present. It looks for God’s present working as it unfolds into future grace.
Watch for the story God is weaving in your life. Don’t leave the desert. Corrie ten Boom’s father often reminded her, “The best is yet to come.”
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come. —SONG OF SONGS 2: 11–12