Imagine this: You are in the desert. It's hot. You're thirsty. You begin thinking, I am so unhappy in this desert. When I started this journey, nobody told me about the extent of the heat. I wish I had known to take more water. I don't even know how much longer I will be traveling before I find refuge. It seems to go on forever. I'm unhappy; I hate the desert, and I'm miserable.
Suddenly, you're given a cup of delicious cold water, and you realize that from that point on, whenever you need it, the water will be available. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, you begin to focus on what you are grateful for and what is right. You feel the stamina and strength to go forward and appreciate the journey, sand and all.
At the end of the journey, you remember the water more than you remember your unhappiness. You appreciate that you were able to endure, and even enjoy, aspects of your experience. But you never forget that water. It changed the way you were thinking from being a victim to overcoming adversity and being victorious.
That is one way to think about a desert experience. We may feel alone, deserted in a desert. We may be tempted to surrender to the difficult conditions, but when they are overcome, we realize how many ways we were encouraged along the way.
In the book of Genesis (chapter 21) in the Bible, there's a story about Hagar, who is told to take her son and go into the desert and find another home for herself and her son. After going some distance, she worries that her son might die of thirst, and she begins to weep. God hears her, and her eyes are opened to see a well of water, which she uses to fill her bottle and give some to her son. She must have been relieved to have the water, but she also learned she could count on God, even in a remote place like the middle of the desert.
I can identify with Hagar and her inability to see or expect the well of water when she was confronted with what felt like an insurmountable problem. When things are difficult, I have had trouble seeing past it to a solution. I miss the well completely!
I once rented an office space with two other people. We signed a lease, rented beautiful furniture, and set up shop, each of us using the office on a different day. Our expectation was that if the office were there, people would come to avail themselves of our services. It did not happen. All three of us ran through our savings and finally had to admit that the office wasn't working out. We informed the landlord, turned in the keys, and forfeited our security deposit.
One year later, we each received a summons that we were being taken to court by our former landlord, who was suing us for the remainder of the lease. We tried to negotiate a settlement, but it soon was apparent that we would all need to go to court.
Like Hagar, all I could see was a desert of discouragement and fear. The thought of having to go to court frightened me. One sentence from a book written by the woman who founded this newspaper helped me overcome my fear: "The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 574). I became more willing to face our former landlord and his lawyer, and to ask God to show me the angels, because I knew I was not alone.
The day of my hearing, I was sitting quietly in the courtroom. I heard my landlord telling his attorney that he didn't have any proof that he had attempted to rent the space out to anyone else. This opened the way for us to ask one more time for a settlement, and before the judge called the case, we all agreed on a figure that was affordable and one that our former landlord would accept. What had seemed impossible disappeared, and all that was left was the joy of knowing that God was in charge.
I can't say I look forward to challenging experiences, but I don't dread them either. I'm learning that trusting God is one way of honoring Him.