Jesus in Our Desert Places

July 9, 2020

Recently I was out in the desert in Lucerne Valley with my son.  (Yes, in June.)  As you would expect, it was dry as a bone and the sun beat down steadily, hour after hour.  Heat shimmered as we drove out over the desert floor.  The surrounding environment was harsh with little more than sand, rock and shrubs dotting the landscape.  It was a very thirsty place and it didn’t take long before we began to drink up the gallons of water we had with us.  

In our lives, we also have desert places.  These are places where the Enemy has stoked anger, bitterness, or fear, causing wounds that refuse to heal on their own.  These are places where growth has ceased or hope has been driven underground.  As recent events show us, we have those places in our communities as well, where injury and injustice have caused relational and spiritual barrenness.  A similar situation is found at the outset of the Gospel of Mark, which describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.   In the first two chapters, we are confronted on multiple occasions with sick and demonically oppressed people.  Thanks be to God, these chapters also introduce a Healer who comes in power with Good News.  

READ MARK 1:14-15, 21-28

At the outset of his ministry Jesus began by proclaiming the message, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  After calling several men to follow him, Jesus entered the town of Capernaum and immediately began teaching on the Sabbath in the synagogue.  He was quickly recognized by people as one who taught with authority.  Shortly after, that authority was challenged on the spiritual level as an unclean spirit present in a synagogue attendee cried out and questioned his motives.  

Moving with God-given power, Jesus silenced the unclean spirit and cast it out.  All those around him immediately recognized a “new teaching” accompanied by power.  A few verses later, this pattern repeated itself again in Capernaum (vs. 32) and “throughout all Galilee” (vs. 39).  In verse 28, Mark wrote, “At once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.”  

At once…  This is the phrase that catches my attention.  Despite the lack of social media, telephone communication, or any other news outlets, the fame of Jesus traveled at once throughout the region by simple word of mouth.  Like a desert gobbling up drops of water, the people of first century Galilee drank up evidence of the long-awaited Christ.  They were starved for proof of God’s presence, His truth and His faithfulness.  They also yearned to experience his powerful, healing touch in their lives and on their land.

Today, you may be thirsty for similar evidence of God’s presence and faithfulness.  Perhaps you are yearning for deliverance from Covid-19-induced isolation, or maybe the stress of this situation has caused other challenges to surface.  Take heart and be reminded that Jesus continues to have all power and authority.  Furthermore, He promised to be with us to the very end of the age.  We experience his presence by the Holy Spirit as we turn to him in prayer.  We invite his freedom and healing as we yield every area of our lives to his power and authority.  And then we wait…until he guides us forward or speaks words over us like he did to the woman of Mark 5, “Your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed…”

Eventually, my son and I entered a small valley in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains and we found some relief from the sun.  Taller Joshua trees and shrubs gave protection to chipmunks and small rodents that scurried out of the path in front of us.  Flashes of gray Jackrabbits could be seen darting through dry streambeds.  Life was present, but dormant.  It was waiting for the refreshment of nightfall, for seasonal rains, or snowmelt so that it might come alive again.  In the same way, our experience of barrenness or pain does not have the last word.  Jesus does.  

REFLECTION:

Take a moment to consider where you are experiencing barrenness in your life.  Is it in a friendship, in your employment, or perhaps in your marriage?  Bring it before the Lord in prayer.  

How have you dealt with that barrenness to date?  Have you sought to ignore or numb the associated pain?  Take a moment to bring your pain before the Lord (perhaps again) and sit with him in the midst of it.  Prayerfully appeal for a deep awareness of his presence.

Finally, ask Jesus for healing in this area of your life.  Invite him to show you how to move differently as a result of your identify as a Child of God.  Ask him for courage to take the necessary steps towards reconciliation and restoration.  Finally, wait upon him to hear his voice.  

About The Author

Dan Wendell

Dan joined the Cornerstone team in November 2018 as the Pastor of Missions. His focus is on empowering the church family to step beyond the boundaries of CCLB to declare the Good News, so that the Body of Christ might be established where it would not otherwise occur. In addition, Dan provides oversight for Cornerstone’s Care ministries.