Monday, April 25, 2016

For Those Who Walk Through a Spiritual Wasteland



"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6 NIV


"Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'

 'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread every day.'

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. " John 6:32-35 NLT

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There are days when life can leave you feeling like a wrung-out dishrag, used up and dried out. Spiritual and emotional nourishment are non-existent, and you're left empty, starving for sustenance.

When You Find Yourself in a Spiritual Wasteland

I've always loved the story of the Israelite wanderers in the desert. Their constant complaining in spite of the blatant physical manifestation of God's presence is such a real-life picture of humanity.

It's easy to judge them, isn't it? With the blessing of hindsight, we shake our heads and wonder at their spiritual blindness. 

But 40 years is a long time, and deserts are dry and barren.

We've all walked our own wastelands, haven't we?

When we're navigating a special needs journey, life can feel parched and dry. We stretch ourselves a little further, push to keep trudging through the desert sand--just one more mile--but we question if we will make it to the Promised Land. We find ourselves doubting if such a place even exists. Where will we go to feed our hungry souls?

My son is considered 'high-functioning,' so I sometimes feel guilty. I try to trick myself into thinking -- since so many have it much worse -- that these conditions are normal, that this aching dryness in my soul and tired body are just par for the course.

But then we have a night like we did last week, when all hell breaks loose, and I have to stop and remind myself. . . this is a hard place. 

We special needs parents wander in circles in this desert of ours -- like the Israelites in the wilderness -- searching out different options for treatments, medications, behavioral programs, diet, supplements.
  • Maybe today is the day when the miracle pill will land on our doorstep.
  • Maybe today the light switch will flip unexplainably to "on" and will stay put.
  • Maybe today the stars and planets will align just so and it will turn out to be an easy, normal day.
We can't see God's face in all of it, and we sometimes doubt if there's a purpose. So we throw our hopes and dreams -- and a good chunk of cash -- into theories and sales pitches, like jewels tossed toward a cowardly Aaron. Then we cross our fingers and hope that when it's all thrown into the fire, a golden calf will emerge to fix our problems.

But instead we end up eating our own dust. We're back at square one.

Because the desert is a hard place.

Blessings in the Desert

But it can also be a place of blessing. 

The desert is where God met the Israelites and guided them with a pillar of fire. It's where the people sang and danced, lifting praises to the miraculous God who delivered them from their oppressors. In the wilderness they learned who Jehovah was, and looked upon the radiance of Moses who knew God face to face.

The desert is where God gave manna, the strange honeydew substance that left the people shrugging their shoulders and asking "what is it?" The bread of heaven, descending upon the desert floor each morning, abundant food available for gathering.

But there was a catch to manna. 

Manna had to be gathered daily, just enough for each day, or it would spoil.

The manna was there for the taking. But the people had to go outside and get it.

Years ago when studying Exodus, a picture formed in my head of starving people lying inside tents with food just outside.

Because you see, the Bread of Life is ours for the taking. It's free and it's grace and it's more than enough to fill and satisfy. But if we don't actually go to the trouble of gathering, we can starve our souls while lying inside our tents.

The key to life in the desert places is going outside the tent. 

Maybe you've been wandering down this road a long time. Your soul is weary and your body is spent. You've read helpful online articles about 'self-care' and have every intention of following through, but desert life is too demanding. The scorch of the sun never lets up, and there's no oasis in sight, no Jacob's well to quench the intensity of your thirst.

But this is where you're wrong.

Because there is still manna.

Manna is truth from God, the Bread of Life, the reminder -- like the Bread of Presence in the holy tabernacle -- that God is near. And He rains down mercy from the sky for those who will go outside with their buckets and collect it.

But we cannot lie down inside our tents and quit. We cannot give up on this arduous journey.

We must go and gather. 

Grace is drifting down like manna, but you'll never know if you don't step outside.

I challenge you, special needs parents. Don't let another day go by without crying out to the God who made you. Life can be oh-so-hard, but our God is oh-so-much-greater. He has mercy and wonder to offer you today. He has peace and joy and yes -- even rest -- for the weary. He gives comfort and strength and endurance when we think we cannot walk one more step.

He alone will meet your needs on this journey. He is handing down blessings for you in this moment.

So what are you waiting for?

Go and gather.

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Father, how I thank you for being Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides. Life can feel like a dry desert place at times, but you offer Living Water and the Bread of Life, to nourish our souls and fill us to overflowing. Help us not to turn our eyes away from You. Strengthen us for the journey and remind us of your presence. May we have the courage to walk bravely into the sun, gathering your grace for each and every day, and choosing to abide in You. Help us to go and gather.

3 comments:

  1. Love this!!! As a special needs mom myself I am always searching for "the thing"'that will help my child....if I spent more time crying out to God to help my weary soul I am certain that would be time better spent. Thanks for sharing your journey, it is very encouraging to see words in print that I feel in my heart. (It.is.hard.) Sometimes just knowing I am not alone in feeling that way makes all the difference.

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  2. Hi Sheri,

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to encourage us that are tired and dusty from the journey.
    I have an adult son with mental disorders. I needed this word NOW! Cleansing tears of JOY is filling my soul!

    I PRAY SHERI THAT FATHER WILL REFRESH YOU MORE THAN YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN...THAT HE WILL STRENGTHEN YOU FOR THE JOURNEY AND ALL THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN OUT IT WILL RETURN TO YOU ONE HUNDRED FOLD!!!

    Your Sister in CHRIST JESUS♡

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