So many people I meet describe how they are experiencing a dry desert-like spiritual season. They have stopped hearing God’s voice, and their usual ways of connecting with Him are no longer working. Reading the Word is not producing its usual nourishment. Their worship feels like it is hitting the ceiling and falling back to the ground unheard. They feel disconnected and spiritually isolated, not only in their relationship with God but often with friends.
This season is often called a desert season or the dark night of the soul. If you are in such a place, there is good news. Although it may feel like God has abandoned you, there is a strategic purpose behind such seasons. God brings every believer through the desert season at key moments in their journey. If Jesus needed to go through a 40-day season of roaming the desert while being tempted by the enemy, so do you and I.
Let’s consider 3 key purposes for the desert season.
Disruption for Reassessment
Like all humans, if left to yourself, you tend to gravitate toward the path of least resistance. Your internal compass moves you toward routine and comfort. After all, your routine has gotten you safely here so far…so, why not keep going? Yet, routine and comfort are not always in your best interest. God does not dislike routine and comfort, as they have their place and season. Yet, He is more interested in the nature and character of Jesus is more fully formed in you. Getting you there requires an assortment of seasons that each facilitate a needed part of the shaping process.
One of the more obvious characteristics of a desert season is how disruptive they are in nature. Your normal ways of making life work stop working. Devoid of all the usual trappings and comforts, you are forced to rethink your presuppositions and patterns for making life work. Let’s face it, if God never intervened, you would keep your wheels firmly settled into the ruts of your usual path (along with all its coping mechanisms). Periodically, you need to be nudged out of autopilot to seriously reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to be in X number of years. Your spiritual journey is not meant to be a straight line. It is intended to be full of adventure, new characters, plots twists, and unexpected developments. After all, who wants to live a boring journey with God?
Lack is a great tool for helping you to rethink your trajectory. It can be the catalyst that awakens you to the need to reshape your mindsets. As you find yourself feeling pain and disorientation in the desert season, ponder some relevant questions, and bring those to the Lord for help finding meaningful answers. Peruse the following list of questions and note the ones that speak to you. Write them down (or copy and paste) so you can keep them in front of you as you seek direction:
- If I stay on the current trajectory, where will I be in 5 years?
- Is that where I want to be in 5 years?
- Do I need to make a course correction?
- What areas of my thinking are holding me back from who I want to become?
- Am I packing the right things for this part of my journey?
- What do I need to let go of to advance forward faster?
- What am I missing that I need to add to my toolbelt moving forward?
- Do I need more training to develop the life skills needed for this leg of my journey?
- Where can I go to get the training I need?
- Which of my relationships are no longer providing me what I need for this part of my journey?
- Am I missing a critical role in my life, such as a mentor, father, or mother?
- Who can I pursue about filling those roles?
- What character traits of Christ need to be formed more fully in me?
- Who do I know that possess these character traits?
- Are they are willing to mentor me in this area?
- How have I been presumptuous toward God?
- How can I repent and reset so that I am more dependent upon Him?
- How does my thinking about God need to shift?
- How does my thinking about myself need to shift?
- How should I think differently about life and pain?
- Do I assess risks correctly to enable me to advance at the right moment?
- In what areas has fear gripped my life that I need to change?
- Have I forgiven everyone I need to in order to move into my future unhindered?
Hide and Seek
One of the most important books of the Bible in helping you understand how to make adjustments to your life is the Song of Songs. If you have been cautioned against reading this book because it pertains to married life, I strongly encourage you to forget that misperceived notion. This book is rich with spiritual insights and strategies to help you move into deeper life and intimacy with God.
In the Song of Songs, We find this Shulamite woman (Bride) acting as a representative of a follower of Jesus. In chapter 3, she experiences a familiar struggle:
3:1″On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him. 2′ I must arise now and go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.’ I sought him but did not find him. 3 ” The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, And I said, ‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?’ 4 “Scarcely had I left them When I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go Until I had brought him to my mother’s house, And into the room of her who conceived me.”
Here, she seeks the Lord from her place of comfort (her bed). This is one of her early wrestling points along her journey with the Lord. She wants to find God but she wants Him to come to her in you on her terms, into her place of ease. She tries this strategy night after night but it is no longer working. He has stopped coming to her in this old familiar way. Finally, in desperation to encounter Him, she decides to overcome her laziness and apathy. She gets out of her comfort zone and goes out into the place of risk–the city streets at night. Her hungry to engage the heart of God overcomes her innate fears. As her desperation to experience the Lord exceeds her desires to maintain comforts and ease, she steps into action.
As she goes into public places of danger to find Him, she encounters other believers (watchmen), and she seeks their help finding His presence. Then, the Lord rewards her diligence to get out of her comfort zone and to seek the help of other believers in finding Him. He makes Himself known to her, and this season of His absence draws to a close.
This demonstrates another reason God allows you to experience a dark night of the soul. Like all of us, you tend to grow so comfortable with how God meets you that you grow complacent. Without realizing it, you have grown accustomed to God coming to you without you having to lift a finger. You have become presumptuous in how you expect God to meet your needs. So, God whets your appetite for more of Him than you are currently tasting. To awaken your hunger for more, He hides from you. He stops meeting your needs in the ways He has always met them. He wants you to become so desperate as to be willing to pay a higher price to encounter a greater measure of who He wants to be in your life.
God plays hide and seek with you at strategic moments because He knows how to awaken your heart to love at the best possible moment in time. The fact that you are experiencing such a moment of God hiding His presence from you reveals that deep within you is a powerful desire to encounter the Source of Life. You have tasted of religion and have enough wisdom and discernable to have found it empty and void of life. Now, God wants to unveil the real deal to you. He is beckoning you to leave behind the comforts of past seasons and to go on a journey of exploration higher into the mountains of God’s goodness than you’ve ever climbed before.
To help incentivize you to leave behind the old comfortable ways and to ascend higher into His presence, consider the following questions to ponder:
- Was I happy with the level of encountering God that I was experiencing before this desert season?
- What price am I willing to pay to experience more of God?
- How can I demonstrate to God that I am serious about going deeper in a relationship with Him?
- If I were to write God a love letter, what would I say to Him?
- Would I be willing to give an entire day to fast and pray, in order to get a breakthrough with God?
- Which of my friends can I ask to pray for me as I take a new step of faith to encounter God?
- Prayers to offer:
- I repent for being lazy and apathetic toward You.
- Give me a new posture to run after You.
- God, put a bullseye on my chest and come after me with everything You’ve got.
- Whatever the cost, I say yes to chasing after You.
- I am so desperate that I will get out of bed in the middle of the night, whenever you awaken me and call me to You.
- I give You permission to interrupt my life whenever You so desire.
- Show me how to climb the mountain of Your presence, so that I can experience a new level of intimacy with You.
- Reveal Your goodness to me and awaken me to my higher calling to experiencing You every day of my life.
- Increase my hungry until I have no desire to stay stuck any longer.
- Remove the veil from my eyes so that I behold You as You are.
- I choose to abandon my self-strength so I can pursue Your goodness and provision for my life.
Testing and Promotion
A third key reason you are experiencing a desert season is because of testing and preparation for promotion. God wants to promote you to a position of greater impact but it is contingent upon you putting in the work to partner with God and allow Him to conform you into the image and likeness of Jesus (the process of sanctification).
Prior to Jesus being released into His ministry, the Spirit led Him out into the desert to be tested and prepared. The desert tests your endurance and stamina. It brings all your outstanding issues to the surface where they become apparent for you and others to see. You realize that although you thought you had overcome these issues, in reality, their dormancy was simply a matter of your soulish buttons not getting pressed in a while.
Your dormant issues need to be exposed so you can deal with them instead of taking them along for another ride through your next season. God is pointing them out to you (and perhaps others) to help you understand that He is offering you a solution. He wants to help you overcome if you will only believe, align, and obey. The fact that you are experiencing a time of desert roaming hints at the likelihood that God is preparing for you for a promotion of some kind that will require more of you than you have been capable of carrying in the past.
Here are some questions to help you overcome during this season of testing and preparation.
- How can I stop resisting what God is doing in my life?
- How can I lean into God’s process of testing and preparing me?
- How can I get out of my own way to make room for God to do what He wants to do?
- How do I shift from my old way of doing life into the new season God is bringing me into?
- How do I get in alignment with God’s purposes instead of trying to do everything out of my self-strength?
God, thank You for being so faithful to me. I realize that You have brought me to this place of roaming the desert wastelands because it is what I need. I stop fighting against Your hand and I surrender control of my life over to You on a new level. I confess my weakness to You, and that You are my supply of strength. Infuse me with Your overcoming spirit so that I break free of this place of being spiritually stuck. Breathe Your life afresh into me. I step out of Your way and I stop resisting You. I bring my life into alignment with You and obedience to You. Even so, help me in my weakness and fill me with expectancy as You position me to overcome and breakthrough into a new season of a greater life in Christ, in whose name I pray, Amen.
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