In desert wastes

I put all my hope in the LORD.
He leaned down to me;
he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
out of the mud and filth,
and set my feet on solid rock.
He steadied my legs.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
they will trust the LORD.
Those who put their trust in the LORD,
who pay no attention to the proud
or to those who follow lies,
are truly happy!
You, LORD my God!
You’ve done so many things—
your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
no one can compare with you!
If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
they would be too numerous to count!

“A strange life-giver, the Holy Spirit, for the life given is compassed about by desolation. The story of Jesus bears a start testimony to this unsettling truth. At the birth of Jesus the Spirit-guided words of Simeon prophesy desolation for Israel and for the heart of Mary as well (Luke 2:34-35). Immediately after his baptism, during which God calls Jesus ‘my Beloved,’ the Spirit drives him in to the wilderness of isolation, vulnerability, and temptation (Mark 1:12-13). And at the end of a life exquisitely responsive to every subtle rhythm of the Spirit’s leading, Jesus chokes out the unthinkable words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46).

Christian tradition teaches that there are times when we, like Jesus, are led into arid soulscapes that bruise and distort us. These places seem bereft of God’s presence and filled with temptations to lose heart in God’s presence and filled with temptations to lose heart in God’s goodness, care, and sovereignty. In this harsh ‘winter of abandonment’ (Johannes Tauler), Jesus’ anguished cry of desertion becomes our own. Desert and cross- places of excruciating separation from the God we have come to know but equally unbearable intimacy with the God we are yet to know, places barren of all human possibilities but pregnant with grace. ‘Lord,’ exclaims the scorned and ill young priest in the Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos, ‘I am stripped bare of all things, as you alone can strip us bare, whose fearful care nothing escapes, not your terrible love.’ In ‘fearful care’ of the Holy Spirit we are stripped bare but not left naked and exposed in desert wastes.” ~John S. Mogabgab, “Editor’s Introduction,” Weavings (September/October 1993)

O Lord, even in the desert, place Your song in my heart. Help me hold onto those truths I know and trust You to see me to Your promises. And Lord, when I can no longer hope, send me those to hope for me so that I won’t totally lose heart. Amen.



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