From time to time, I’ve heard people say they’re “in the desert.” They are speaking figuratively, of course, but nevertheless it is a dry place, a barren wilderness, an unhappy situation to be sure.
Their desert experience is not a literal place of residence, but a spiritual condition, a state of being. For them, the desert is an apt metaphor for the angst of their soul. They can’t wait to get out of the desert and often wonder why God has left them there. Sometimes their plaint against the almighty is angry or even bitter. Why is he ignoring them?
The desert is also a reoccurring theme in the Bible, but there it is mostly literal. Many of the biblical characters who find themselves in the desert do so because they are running away from something or someone. They are in the desert by their own doing. Moses was one such individual.
Others find themselves in the desert because they are being punished or need time to learn something. Consider the people of Israel, who had a 40-year timeout because of their disobedience.
A few people are in the desert because they seek solitude and a place to pray without distraction. Jesus would be a prime example. He went there intentionally and left when he was finished.
When we find ourselves in the midst of a desert experience, instead of lamenting our situation, a little introspection might be in order. Perhaps we are in the desert because we are on the run or have been given a timeout. It’s not God’s fault at all, but our own doing.