OUT OF THE DESERT
On more than one occasion, I have read testimonies
from prophets who say
they have been in a spiritual desert. They often relate how they were
stubborn or rebellious or proud, and God had to take them through the
to cure them of it. People find their testimonies comforting because
story fits into some sense of order, control, and justice. It is, after
all, of common religious opinion that generally speaking, people
hardship or spiritual dryness because they have somehow displeased God.
If people deserve their hardship, then it stands to reason that all
have to do is figure out what is wrong with them, repent of it and
it, and then God will relieve them of the trials (disciplines) He has
thrust them into.
Coincidentally, these "I went into the desert because I was
or prideful and needed to be straightened out" stories also fit into
more specific theme that many people hold to: That is, that all
have a rebellious streak in them, that many of them fall into pride
of their higher gift, and that since these faults must be broken, God
them into the desert to break them of it.
So goes popular religious opinion.
While it is true that a person may experience a
about their own rebelliousness or pride in the middle of great
it is not true that all hardship is caused by God in order to elicit
an awakening. Indeed, oftentimes God does not have to cause hardship at
all. I find that many people, prophets-to-be or not, cause
their own pain and isolation by the natural results of their own
In such cases their desert
time is more self-imposed, than God-imposed.
This writing is not for such cases though.
Although it will acknowledge
the value of God's discipline (Hebrews
it will not address the wilderness experience as if its sole purpose is
to break one of rebellion, pride, or some other deep and dark character
Instead, this writing is for those who have a
different kind of desert
testimony--a testimony that is absent of quick explanations as to "why"
they have been in the wilderness. This is for the people, --and the
who have suffered great illness or tragedy or long-standing pain for no
apparent discernible reason. These prophets cannot just arbitrarily
to their desert time and then say, "I know it happened because I was
or proud or obnoxious, and this was the only way God could get through
to me was by this great of suffering." They cannot comfort
with such a simple "if this, then that" formula. Indeed, if these
were to speak, their story would mostly likely make their audiences
in their seats, because their story does not and will not
into any popular or common religious opinion or formula for prophets.
I write this because simple religious formulas and
easily fall into the hands of the 'Job's friends' who all too easily
use them against the 'Jobs' of our spiritual landscape--our suffering
brothers and sisters in the Lord. I write this
for the prophets who do not need more judgment or condemnation
or postulations at to what their problem is or was, that God would find
it so necessary to put them into the hot, dry desert. They do not need
more false guilt heaped upon them. They especially do
not need their fellow prophets secretly or openly assuming that a
or "wilderness experience" is really caused by some character flaw, or
that it is caused by the same character flaw they once had. Instead,
need to know that we may never fully understand all of God's
reasons for the wilderness experience, and that there are other reasons
besides the "rebellion" theory. They need encouragement to walk out of
desert when that time is over.
Reasons For The Desert
God loves us so much and knows that "we are dust"
(Psalms 103:14), and yet He decrees for us a season of
dryness. Why? Why did Moses have to spend forty years of his life in
desert before God appeared to him in the burning bush? Sure, Moses did
react to oppression and his brethern misunderstood him (Exo. 2:11-14; Acts
but why forty long years? It seems like such
a long time, and wouldn't God have wanted to use that time better by
Moses in the work of His service? Or was it that God was
for the conditions in Israel to be right for the 'Deliverer' to come?
Yes the Lord often sends His best---you and me---into
our spiritual desert on purpose, and there is no getting around it.
Son Jesus was directed by the Spirit of God into the desert (Matt.
Yet oh , there are preparations that occur in the
desert that we
have no foreknowledge of needing. Moses spent his forty years of desert
sheep. Did he know that he was going to lead the sheep of Israel for
years? I have spoken to a pastor in Hutchinson, Kansas who has pastored
sheep (the animal) for twenty-five years. He will tell you it is a
art! Sheep are clever, he says, and not as stupid as we Americans have
often been taught in our Bible classes. Was the forty years necessary
to 'break' Moses of a fit of rage over slavery, or was the forty years
to protect him from the eyes of Pharoah while he learned the skills
necessary to 'pastor' the sheep of the Lord, or was it both?
Young David the psalmist spent the early portion of
his life tending
sheep. Before he went up to challenge Goliath with his slingshot, he
to Saul, "Your servant has been
keeping his father's
sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the
I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When
turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your
has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine
be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living
The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the
will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." (1 Sam. 17:34-37)
So we see that the desert or wilderness can be a
time of training for
unanticipated things. Moses did not anticipate that he would be leading
the sheep of Israel, and David did not anticipate that his skill at the
slingshot was being developed for his day with Goliath. When Goliath
himself though, David's spiritual eyes were opened and understood that
his deliverance from the lion and the bear were foreshadows of his
Prophets often have so much zeal for the Lord that
they forget that
mundane matters need to be taken care of too. They often do not realize
that they grow in Christ through the proper carrying out of these
'nonspiritual' tasks. As we have seen by the example of David
Moses, so-called 'nonspiritual' or 'nonministry' times are not
wasted times at all. God is sovereign and we have to trust and believe
in His wisdom as He watches over our lives. He is not anxious to send
into battle or send us into ministry before we are prepared. He cares
our well-being in Him as His servant, as well as the health and
of the ministry we are being prepared to do in the future.
While it is true that when we obey the Lord's
commandments to love one
another we find ourselves as His friends, it is also true that he
back those who bear fruit, so that they may bear more (John
15:8-17;15:1-2). When we are 'pruned back' and our
are suddenly dry, we need to keep in prayer and go about our business.
We need to keep obedient to His last directive, and remind ourselves
love is more important than giftings (1
13:2). And we can love one another without prophesying.
Worrying too much over the absence of our gift could
be a sign of ignorance
to His pruning back process, or it could be a sign that we place too
of our egos into the spiritual gifts. We need to consider that God may
be giving us a grace period. After all, if we are always busy
then we would also be contending with persecution more often. God may
care for our mental or physical health. We might also have people
us by depending upon us for "words" from the Lord while neglecting
own relationship with the Lord, which is not the goal of any true
So we get a break from that possible scenario, too.
The desert or "dry times" could be a time of
preparation, or they could
be a time of pruning, but they are definitely a time of testing and
of character. In the recounting of the history of Israel after their
from Egypt, it was said:
"And you shall
remember all the way which the
LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He
might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether
you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you
be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your
fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live
by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the
of the LORD." (Deu 8:2-3 NASB)
God strips away all distractions so that we learn
our dependence upon
Him. The bleakness of the desert causes us to appreciate the Life in
Word (Matt. 4:4).
And when that season of dryness is over we can walk
out of the desert.
Or can we?
Now that is an interesting thought. What if it is
time for us to leave
the desert, and we don't? What if that is the final test of the desert?
"Okay," God says, "now it is time to leave the desert!" Yet we stay and
grumble and fret and suffer.
What if we did that?
Except for Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son
of Jephunneh, the
entire post-Exodus nation of Israel was not allowed to enter the
Land. Instead, the Lord God decreed that they would stay in the desert
until their natural deaths. They had tested God so often and so
that He called that generation an "evil congregation" (Numbers
14:35). The author of Hebrews in the New Testament sums it
"And so we see
that they were not able to enter
because of unbelief." (Heb 3:19 NASB)
Faith or unbelief is a choice, as is disobedience.
The children of Israel
had no excuses for their disbelief. God gave them everything they
needed: Moses the Prophet and Aaron the priest, manna, a cloud by day
and a fire
by night, and yet almost all of them failed the test, over and over
In the same way, we are given everything we need from God to obey Him.
If we refuse to acknowledge it and if we turn away from Him, we are
accountable. We will not enter His rest with hardened hearts (Hebrews
So the people of Israel are an example to us so that
we do not anger
God in the same way. However, when God calls us out of the
we had better not play the false humility game of arguing with God
our capabilities nor entertain the thought that we are unworthy of
the desert. Did Moses obey the Lord when He appeared to him in the
bush after he had spent forty years tending sheep in the desert? Yes,
did. However, if you look closely at this passage, you will find that
almost did not obey the Lord. This was because of a sense of 'humility'
that God found unacceptable. In fact, God began to get angry with Moses
after his protest over his lack of eloquence (possibly stuttering) and
his attempt to get out of the assignment (Exodus
Surely if we have learned anything, we have learned
that the fear of
the Lord is wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
what our estimation of ourselves or what our counsel would be to God,
for God will lead us to concede to His wisdom and obey. Unbelief,
and false humility will lead us into disobedience, because disobedience
claims that we know better than God. Bottom line: we disobey because of
pride, for obedience is an act of humility (Phil.
Walking Through the Storm
"Thus says the
LORD, 'Cursed is the man who trusts
in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away
the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see
prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a
of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the
that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat
But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of
nor cease to yield fruit.'"(Jer 17:5-8 NASB)
"Hope" here in Jer 17:7 is the Hebrew word mivtah,
and could be rendered
"confidence" or "trust." Isn't trust the same as faith? Not exactly. On
some level it is, for trusting in God is just as much a choice as faith
is. Yet trust is a process of relationship, while faith is more object
or fact oriented, being the acceptance of something not yet proven (Heb.
11:1). In other words, we trust someone because
we know them
and have learned that they are steadfast and reliable. Faith, however,
can be had without as much prior knowledge or past personal experience
of their character.
When we became new Christians and believed that He
would forgive our
sins and make us white as snow, we knew nothing yet of the Person of
right? We knew only the facts about Him: that He had died for us
He loved us, to forgive us of our sins. Because of these basic facts,
had faith (trusted) that the gospel was true and that He would indeed
away our sins. Yet, we had not yet experienced the
joy that comes
with the righteousness (cleanliness) that He bestows upon us before we
prayed for it, right? We knew it only after we had taken this leap of
Thus, we trusted the message before we knew the Person
message was about. This is not the same as trusting the Person
we know His character. Trust is a deeper level of
When we trust God, He may do things we do not
or even agree with,
but we will still trust that He has good reasons
for what He does (Rom. 11:33).
Now think about, if you will, the scene of Peter who walked on
after our Lord:
made the disciples get into
the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed
crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a
by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat
was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves
the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus
out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on
the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out
in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I.
be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you
on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of
walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he
was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he
"why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14: 22-31)
The simple plot to this story is that Peter had
faith at first, stepped
out onto the water, was distracted by the wind and waves, took his eyes
off of Jesus (we presume), and then he began to sink. Okay, but Peter
have some faith, at least. Otherwise, he would not have stepped out of
the boat in the first place, right? How did he acquire this faith? How
did he even have hope that he would not immediately plunge into the
of the sea? The answer to this is that Peter had just been with Jesus
a few hours ago, when He fed five thousand men plus women and children
with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. That was is in addition
to the many other miracles great or small, that Jesus had already
in Peter's presence.
One of the miracles that Peter had witnessed earlier
was more to the
point. Shortly after Jesus had healed Peter's mother-in-law, a crowd of
people gathered around Jesus and He gave orders that they should cross
the lake in a boat. Jesus went to sleep in the boat and was in such a
slumber, that he did not notice a furious storm that arose suddenly
them. Waves washed into the boat and the disciples feared for their
so they woke Him up. Jesus arose and rebuked the storm and it calmed
This was a stunning miracle to all who were there (Matt.
Now it is later at different storm, at another time.
When Peter stepped
off of the boat during this storm, do you think it is possible that he
expected Jesus would calm these winds like he did the winds in the
storm? I think it is quite possible. But Jesus did not calm the storm
time. Instead, He expected Peter to walk right through it,
faith, toward Him. By now, Peter should have trusted that if the storm
really needed to be calmed, Jesus would calm it. But perhaps
because Jesus did not do all that Peter expected, and perhaps it was
the storm seemed bad enough in Peter's estimation, that Peter doubted
and so failed in his faith.
admonishes us to "hold
firmly to the faith we profess". Peter let go of his
while he walked on water because he was distracted by the storm. This
because his beginning faith had hinged on outside events (the miracles
that he had long witnessed Jesus perform), and so it also failed by
events (circumstances), too. His faith was not based on knowing
the Lord (His character/His love) as much as it was based on
that did not match what he thought he understood.
Now let us go back to my original scripture in this
"Blessed is the
man who trusts in the LORD and
whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the
that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat
But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of
nor cease to yield fruit."(Jer 17:5-8 NASB)
In this passage, the tree had extended its roots
toward the water of
the stream. Therefore, even in the midst of drought, it had a water
We are to be like that tree in order to survive any 'drought' in our
This takes more than a little faith. Our root system must be deeper
the beginner surface roots near the top of the soil -- the ones
to catch the rain. Constant water supply is there for us but we must
it and send out a tap root into it. These roots take a little time and
effort to grow.
The Sting Of Failure
How fair would it be for someone to apply the short
passage of Peter
walking on water to any of us who have suffered for a very, very long
If we have traveled through reams and reams of bleak desert, choking on
the sand and baking in the sun, and if that is all we have seen or
for a very long time in our lives, will the admonishment, "Just have a
little faith" really apply any more? I am going to take a huge risk of
offending you here by saying no, it does not apply. See, there is a
with religious folk who misapply matters of little faith to matters of
Just what do I mean by that? Well, how many of us
can say that we can
ignore the beating of the wind and the fury of the storm? If we all
think that we can do that, then we have probably not been through much
of a storm. We ought to be careful to avoid foolish overconfidence (1
Corinth. 10:1-12, especially verse 12).
Developing a real relationship with Jesus means
having a faith that
will not fall apart easily --a faith that will 'weather the storm'
A "little faith" is as small as a mustard seed, and it can either grow
as large as a mustard tree or it can fail in its growth, due to factors
other than just the seed. Just take a look at Matthew
13:5-6 where the seed fell on the shallow soil and had no
and so it faded away. It was just beginner's faith and fell upon the
soil, so it dies soon. Troubles come, distractions come (in the case of
the seed among the thorns) and it is found no more. We must put our
into practice or the storm will overtake us (Matt.7:24-27).
This is because faith without works is dead, and if we are not abiding
and growing in Christ then we are dying in something else.
We believe that God exists, but that belief alone
does not bring us
closer to God. If it is important that we have faith enough to know the
Lord Jesus exists (Heb. 11:6),
then it is
even more important that we actually seek this Jesus that we now know
17:27; Jer. 29:13).
The man who does
not seek the Lord cannot abide in Christ and therefore has "no root" (Matt.
13:21). It does not matter whether your
beginner's faith got
its start from dramatic miracles or events, or not. Nothing is wrong
whichever way God chooses to reach us, as long as the gospel was
to us and we responded to it. It matters that we grow in Him,
Our faith and character must be proven and
strengthened by our works
2:14-26), just as God proves Himself with His works. How
it if we do nothing, but we expect God to do everything? We are not the
Judge of God, but He is our Judge. We learn to trust in Him, and He
to trust us because of what is in our hearts and what we do
19: 12-27). There is no getting around that. After all,
are made or broken over a period of time by what each person says and
and since God does not sin and is not a liar, that leaves us people to
muck it up, if we choose to. Or, we can follow God's advice and build
our character in Him (2 Peter
God's interventions to inspire us out of a
destructive spiritual condition
and into a more constructive and fruitful one, can be painful. Just
our Lord's crucifixion, Peter made a promise he could not keep (Luke
22:31-32). He could not keep it because again, his promise
was based on what he thought would happen with Jesus' ministry, rather
than what God's ideas were (Remember
Jesus tried to warn Peter that it would not end as he thought it would!)
When Peter failed by denying the Lord three times, his pride was
I am sure Peter felt like a real loser!
Yes, Peter found out his heart was not as strong and
sure as he thought
it was, and it was a crushing blow indeed. Yet, it was a blow that
had compassion upon (John 21:15-18).
was at this point and no sooner, that there began a real, sustainable
between Peter and the Lord Jesus. Yet, who trusted who first, or the
That is an interesting question.
Peter was the first to recognize the Christ (Matt.
16:15-19). He loved Jesus and cannot be thought of as the
the grumbling Israelites who tested God for so long with unbelief and
(in spite of the many miracles and provisions they had seen and known)
that finally God decided to let them live out the rest of their natural
lives in the wilderness. He cannot be thought of as the same as the
nation of Israel who caused God to withdraw himself like a scorned
2:8-9). Oh yes, Peter overestimated his
abilities and trusted
the strength of his heart to stay the course when it could not, but
again he was no Judas.
God sees into us much much more clearly than we can
see into ourselves.
He knows both the good (the redeemed/the honorable) and the bad (that
is in error/the untransformed). Jesus saw both and had to address both,
but it was not as if the 'bad' was all Peter was. Even so, this 'bad'
destroy Peter if left unchecked. Peter simply could not go on
greater things without further help. We can surmise this by the fact
Peter's spiritual problem was so serious, that God could not wait until
after the day of Pentecost to let it be tested and dealt with (Luke
Peter kept trusting in human insufficiency instead
of the Lord's sufficiency,
and kept getting in trouble for it. How encouraging it is though, that
it was Peter who, later on, wrote much about the role of tribulation
steadfastness in his epistles! Therefore, we can take comfort in the
that a few failures do not make a man, and they need not destroy our
future in the Lord.
Yet, there is something else that is powerfully
poignant and special
about Peter's story. That is, although it is true that the
burden of holding unto our faith and trust in the Lord is upon us and
upon God, God is not so legalistic that he will not make the first
He knows something about our needs that we may not. He knows that just
as our trust in God is what can get us through, sometimes it is the
God's trust in us is what gets us through (1
4:19). He just has to completely humble us first sometimes
His message through, because some of us will not really believe or know
God's grace, and others of us will not listen to His instruction
until we are at the end of ourselves and are broken by the sting of our
own failure, and until we repent.
May our confidence be found in the Lord, Who is
sufficient in all and
for all (2 Corinth. 3:4-6).
The Innocent And Highly Esteemed
Who can forget the story of Joseph? Joseph had the
enthusiasm of many
young and naive prophets: he blurted out his visions and dreams without
regard to whom he was speaking to, and these dreams elicited the
and murderous inclinations of his brothers. His brother Reuben tried to
secretly save him but Judah had a better plan: that they should sell
into slavery and take the money (Gen.
We all know the story from there. Joseph became a
slave to Potiphar
in Egypt, and later became the chief slave (manager) of Potiphar's
He was falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and was thrown into prison.
there, he interpreted a dream of the king's chief cupbearer and
Joseph was given audience with the Pharoah (Gen.
41) In the end, Joseph saved his own people from death by
because the Lord was with him.
It is good to note that Joseph's dreams did come
true and that ironically, God
used Joseph's enthusiasm to begin the events that eventually
dreams come true. Joseph was not being punished for his youthfulness.
it fit into the greater scheme of things. So no matter what
of the desert, one thing we do know is that there are greater reasons
greater purposes for these desert experiences, and these reasons will
be clear as we go through the desert. God's purposes will often not be
found out until many years afterward, and our understanding will never
be complete until our time in heaven.
And what of the prophet Daniel? He went through a
very unusual training.
As a 'guest' of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Daniel was forced to
the ways of the occult in a foreign land. Like Joseph, he was innocent
of wrongdoing. He kept himself pure and upright during this time of
and found himself at the right place and the right time when
needed a wiseman. It is possible that Daniel wondered about his
with the Lord during a time of distress (Dan.
because the Lord took the trouble to send him messages that he was "highly
esteemed", not just once, but three times (Dan.
9:23; 10:11; 10:19).
So we see that contrary to popular religious
thought, not all prophets
can be put into the 'rebellious' category in their younger years at
In fact, most prophets in Scripture were not like this. David tended to
king Saul with his harp, killed Goliath and was a successful warrior
the Philistines. And yet for all his innocent loyalty and service, Saul
was soon chasing him all over the countryside, trying to kill him. Yet
again, similar to Daniel and Joseph's story, the prophet's opposer was
inspired by jealousy and an evil spirit (Sam.
We know this tribulation went on for a number of
years for David, because
he was thirty years old when he finally became king (2
Sam. 5:4) Many times David felt like giving up and even
God had abandoned him (just read the Psalms and you will find this to
true!), but God did not chide David or reject him for his feelings
these times of hardship, and neither will He reject us today as we
Him with our distresses and weaknesses (Hebrews
With You I Am Well Pleased...
"And a voice came
from heaven: "You are my Son,
whom I love; with you I am well pleased." At once the Spirit sent him
into the desert..." (Mark 1: 11-12)
When Jesus traveled from Nazareth to see John the
Baptist, one might
think that the purpose of his visit would be to check up on John or add
to his ministry. But Jesus did not do that. Instead, He humbled Himself
to John's ministry, and was baptized in water. When he came up from the
water, the Spirit descended upon Him, and God said that He was
So Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and God was
well pleased with
Him, and yet Jesus was immediately "led
by the Spirit
in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil." (Luke
4:1-2) What was the point of sending Jesus into the desert
days to be tempted? Clearly, Jesus was not being punished. He was being
strengthened just prior to his ministry for the days ahead.
Jesus gives us an indisputable example of God being
a Servant of His and thereafter leading him straight into a place of
testing. Has the Lord ever led us or sent us out on some task of His,
then we find ourselves in the wilderness? Suddenly, we are all alone
the palpable presence of God, and surrounded by hardship and the
of the devil. What distress! Rest assured that it is not necessarily
we missed the leading of His Spirit. Neither is it necessarily that he
is displeased with us. In fact, the opposite is very likely true: We
full of the Holy Spirit and He is "well
Many Christians make the quick assumption that a
serious hardship or
a series of unfortunate events means that God is displeased with them,
but this is simply not necessarily true. Perhaps a person who has been
sent into the desert has been, metaphorically speaking, thrown into a
by their jealous brothers and sold into slavery like Joseph was.
they were betrayed and sinned against, through no great fault of their
own. Perhaps they have endured great losses or other mishaps, again
no great foolishness of their own. Perhaps they were
Their pain and loneliness are great and deep. They begin to wonder,
did I go wrong?" or "What have I done to deserve this?" or "Did I miss
God or displease Him in some way?" To make matters worse,
suffer the additional complication of those who are quick to put them
The theory that outside events indicate greater
guilt or God's punishment,
was as popular in Jesus' day as it is in our day. This is what Jesus
to say about it:
Now there were
some present at that time who told
Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their
Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners
all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!
But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who
when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more
than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you
repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
Condemnation is not the stuff of God. If
any man says he has no
sin he is a liar (1 John 1:8),
but if any
man speaks against someone the Lord is pleased with, he is a liar too (Matt.
5:11). Therefore, people ought to take care that they are
as Job's friends would, who would essentially say, "bad things happen
bad people." They ought to fear the Lord more than that (Luke
10:16). But sadly, they often do not. Therefore, they are
to religiously judge their brother or sister without a thought.
Sometimes, condemnation is spoken to someone at a
very vulnerable time
and place in their life. Sometimes they are shunned and treated as
they are guilty when they are innocent, and they are gossiped against.
This is a strategy of the devil, designed to discourage someone into
and stagnation, or worse. I have suffered this, and I can say that even
though I knew this condemnation was not from the Lord at all, and even
though I was well versed in the spiritual gifts and workings of the
I still found myself in a life or death struggle, with lingering damage
to my mind, soul, and spirit.
Though I cannot make this paper into a detailed
instruction on how to
get out of condemnation or self-condemnation, I can say that God must
through religion by his Spirit (2
Corinth. 3:6; Romans
8:1-2) and He must release us from any heavy yoke that is
Lord's (Matt. 11:29-30).
repentance (renouncing and turning away from any form of self-loathing
or self-rejection), acceptance of God's favor ("I am well pleased with
you"), avoiding the 'friendship' and teachings of the religious or
7:6; Matt. 16: 6-12; 2 Corinth. 11:3-15;19-20; 2 Tim. 3:2-5) and
prayer for healing or deliverance from bondage and verbal 'curses', are
all often necessary to varying degrees.
The Pain Of The Desert
By the example of Jesus, Joseph, and Daniel, we see
that the desert
time is not necessarily about character defects at all. All of their
include the devil tempting them in some way, even while they hold true
to God's ethics. If they were going to be true anyhow, one might ask,
why must these prophets be tested? Was it to prove it to God, who
knew the outcome, or was it to prove it to the devil, much like the
of Job? Was it to prove it to themselves? We may never know, but we do
know that when we share in the sufferings of Christ in these
we will share in His resurrection too (Rom.
1 Peter 4:12-13).
What I have written in this text may seem elementary
to you, or it may
seem a little incomplete. It may also seem academic to you, as if I am
just throwing out theories for their own sakes. I assure you that what
I am writing is not academic for me at all. I have been through the
myself. I would say it was about 15-17 years. The entire first half of
my life (assuming I live to be 70 years old) has been one of enormous
By the time I was the age of 35, I would count only 6 years
early childhood as relatively happy or normal, and then after my
only 1 year of my Christianity I would count as happy or without severe
tribulation or sorrow. That means, all told, only 7 years of my life
without deep sufferings by the time I was middle aged. That was in
of all my efforts--sometimes herculean efforts--to live a balanced,
How can this be, one might wonder? What did God have
in mind? This question
I asked myself, many times. The better question though is: How did I
it and not only that, how did I triumph?
When I was shortly out of the occult, I accidently
caused a couple of
people to become afraid when I spoke of my past. I learned to be more
In later years, I accidently caused someone to cry a great deal after
too much of my other sufferings at once. I have most often said
and was too quiet for many years, but God was not interested in my
silence of course, for a variety of good and useful reasons.
it wise and kind to sanitize or simplify the stories from my life so
I do not shock the other person's mind with graphic descriptions of
cruelty, and the like. It is only necessary to go into descriptions if
those descriptions serve a specific purpose, but most often they do
because they are simply so very bad.
Regardless of their experiences in life, some people
are in so much
bondage to religion or so unhealed themselves, that any revealing of
sufferings will invoke a variety of rather bizarre assumptions and
No sooner do people like myself open our mouths to testify of God's
when a variety of things are instantly thought about us, from the
to the mild to the almost humorous, merely because of the subject
No sooner do we reveal the devil's strategy, when we are attacked by it
ourselves. Even while we are fully obedient to the Spirit and to
reactions will occur. This is an inevitable consequence of being in the
world. Sometimes it is an an opportunity to minister. Sometimes, it is
an indication that it is not time for ministry. Sometimes we are not to
offer up ourselves, our "pearls" as it were, as an occasion for another
to sin against us (Matt. 7:6).
Sadly, many people believe that everyone has an
almost 'magical' overcontrol
of people or outside events, based on how perfect they manage to be, or
how perfectly they manage to do things. Therefore, they are compelled
judge others to be "worse" than themselves in order to protect
They live in a world where God would never allow certain bad things to
happen to them because they are shielded by their own goodness,
foresight, or cleverness. However, in the real world, this is not so.
I have found that no one can go through such things
as I have, no matter
what degree of faith they have, without it adversely affecting them (Prov.
18:14). My greatest sorrow was to feel so
separated from God
and humanity for so long, even though I knew by faith that there was no
such separation (Romans 8:35-39).
It was like
being forced into a house of mirrors that was not your own choosing,
each mirror (lie) had to be destroyed as you found your way
Too often asking for help invited more difficulty,.
Eventually, after many years, I became bolder with
the Lord and wrestled
with Him out of desperation. God did answer me in ways I did not
and I trust He will do the same for you as you seek His face.
But as for pain and suffering? Yes I have known more
than I would ever
wish upon anyone. I have experienced miraculous healings and grace from
the Lord too. And, although my own efforts to follow Him were sometimes
not enough, I do not regret these efforts. After all, as the Bible
if I had not persevered and applied His ways to my life, the results
have been far worse. I could have never recovered. I could have even
The following is a poem that I wrote one day by the
Spirit, as a tribute
to the harshness of the desert:
| The Desert
The hot sun has mocked you for so long, telling
God doesn't care;
The only embrace you know is the cruel, dry wind
Whispering of His cruelty, to leave you out here
body is weary, your mind so tired, The fight
has become a battle,
and the battle a war; A war without end, just like
each step you take.
Is this all an exercise in certain futility?
thoughts and biddings come, temptations to
shake your head again to try to clear it.
You squint your eyes to try to
listen for something to distract you from the
the cry from the thirst of your tongue drowns
eyes unreliable now in the face of the mirages
You've forgotten how to think, or what you were
to hope for.
Exhausted, your knees buckle again and you crumple
to the ground; A
heap, face to the ground. This time, there is no
to get up to
finish the marathon.
it would be over soon and it was not,
You thought you had the strength
for it and you did
were sure you would never fall, and you did.
You thought you could see
forever, and you lost sight;
The shocking thing that wasn't in your heart was
It was more than you ever imagined
Just as you
are certain you are doomed to die,
and just as you are dead,
You feel a drop of water,
But you don't notice
You've lost the enthusiasm to hope, and all
to tell anything by your senses
"It's just a long
lost memory", you think as you drift
off to sleep
A dream of rain drifting through your mind,
Only a forgotten
fantasy for sure.
A cool breeze lifts up your hair and playfully
And suddenly you awaken.
The soothing rain falls all
around to bring
a carpet of color and life.
it would never end and it did,
You thought you had to do it alone, and you could
were doomed to being lost but you were found,
You couldn't see before and now
beauty in your heart is there forever.
It was more than you
I can testify that 27 years of my life were essentially lost,
are being found again (Joel 2:25-27).
that I can remind people to be kind to those who have been used,
and falsely accused. For those who have suffered from foolish words and
foolish teachings, I hope that I can show them the truth of what the
really says, and thus make their recovery time shorter. I
my life will demonstrate that if I can walk out of the desert......so
by Teri Lee Earl, Copyright 1998 (poem) and 2003 (article