Imagine a desert. It’s so hot that it gives you difficulty to even walk. The hot sand whips against your sweat drenched forehead in the wind. Yet not even the breeze offers any respite from the heat. Your breath feels hot and heavy. Will you ever make it? How will you possibly cross this without being overtaken? What direction do you even go? You feel lost. Alone. But yet, your feet are moving. Your brain is functioning. You are most certainly alive.
Now compare this environment to the life you live daily. Have you ever felt like you were so bogged down by responsibilities that you feel completely DRAINED by life? We often associate the idea of deserts with inactivity and dormancy. However, what God has been pressing into my heart lately has been the idea that we create our own deserts that aren’t inactive at all. In fact, they are the complete opposite. So many of us, including myself, throw so much into what we are DOING with our lives that we feel like we are suffocating beneath the weight of our responsibilities and self-ascribed expectations.
We think we are building a “successful life”. But in reality, we are simply building a desert. And what’s worse is that we get well accustomed to it. The familiarity of chaos strangely becomes a comfort. We get in our heads that as long as we are doing this, a part of that, achieving x, y and z….we matter. However, this is just exactly what the world WANTS us to believe. See, the desert is where the devil does his best work. When we are drained, we are far more desperate to find meaning in our lives…so much so that we will DO whatever it takes to be what society says is “enough”. This works perfect with the enemy’s plans because he wants to keep us well inside these self-made deserts. Why? Because ultimately, they keep us from the TRUE source of life. “Deserts of activity” keep us from the Living Water. They keep us from Jesus.
Our generation isn’t the first to run into this issue though. The Israelites decided to try and build up their own lives apart from God too. They thought that gods and idols made of wood would suffice. This isn’t too different from our own pursuits. We tend to place a lot of value on the things we make and do with our hands as well. We look on our accomplishments and images with the wrong kind of pride. We see things not as blessings, but as results of our hard work alone. Yet we were made to take pride in God’s work, not our own.
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” //Jeremiah 2:13//
See when we try to build up our own flimsy worlds based on pointless things, we miss something FAR greater that we never could have dreamed up.
But WHY? Why, if we know God’s plan is better in theory, do we STILL choose to chase lives spent in the desert of activity? I think it’s because we get all this desert stuff twisted. Too often we see God’s Will as the desert itself. We get in our heads that following Jesus keeps us from a life of fun, adventure, and success. It looks like a far worse desert than the one we’ve been living in.
We’ve also grown so accustomed to our broken lives in a drained desert that we don’t want to leave it. We don’t like change. We want familiarity. It’s why kids struggle with college at first. Even though it’s a far better and more lively environment full of incredible opportunities, it’s easy to let fear keep us from reaping all of its benefits. We know what we know, we like what we know, and would rather settle for mediocre lives than those that are FULL….simply due to the mental block of lies telling us that college…or God’s Will…asks too much of us.
But this is what the enemy wants. He will do anything to keep you from God’s promises. All he has to do is tell you a good lie. And the thing is, you’ll be tempted to believe it. Because somehow the devil can make a desert sound good…like it’s what’s RIGHT. He twists the truth until we can barely find it anymore. This is how culture works. The Israelites struggled with leaving the comfort of their deserts too. God looked in disappointment at how much they had strayed from Him in pursuit of empty lives:
“I had planted you like a choice vine
of sound and reliable stock.
How then did you turn against me
into a corrupt, wild vine?
22 Although you wash yourself with soap
and use an abundance of cleansing powder,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,”
declares the Sovereign Lord.
23 “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
running here and there,
24 a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
sniffing the wind in her craving—
in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
at mating time they will find her.
25 Do not run until your feet are bare
and your throat is dry.
But you said, ‘It’s no use!
I love foreign gods,
and I must go after them.’ //Jeremiah 2:21-25//
But yet, we DO run until our feet are bare and our throats are dry. It’s called anxiety. And it runs us right into the ground. Like the Israelites, we too are “accustomed to our deserts” where we can be easily entranced by false offers of love and acceptance…just like the wild donkey in the passage. We become far too easy to please.
Somebody once told me that we are like children who prefer mud pies to cherry pies simply because we’d never tasted a cherry pie. Yet we settle on the mud pie because we made it ourselves and it seems fun. However, we have NO CLUE what goodness we are missing if we never let our mothers convince us to ditch the mud for the fruit.
For Christians who are struggling to put God first, we know the fruit is better. We know His Water is life. Yet we still run. We become so drained by our desert of to-do lists that we forget the taste of water altogether. We simply gravitate toward what our desert tells us will make us most successful.
But God planted us where we are for a reason. We were made for so much MORE than things the world tells us needs to be done. We were made for a true relationship with Jesus that doesn’t leave us grasping for breath. There are things to be done in His Name, yes. But our worth isn’t to be found in them. This just runs us dry. Life is found when we let go of what’s good and choose what’s best. And often that is simply rest. Rest at the feet of Jesus by surrendering your anxious thoughts and let Him take you in. Let Him revive your heart with the truth. The truth says “done”, not “do”.
You want to be a light of the world? Already DONE by Jesus. So go be a light, but not like it depends only on you.
You want to tear down the gap between people and God? Already DONE by Jesus. So go love people in His Name, but don’t put the whole world on your shoulders.
You want to change the world radically? Already DONE by Jesus. So go fight for change, but don’t act as if it’s only up to you.
If we ever want to actually “do” things for His Kingdom, we have to come at it with a peaceful reassurance of the “done”. We can’t try to save the world our own. It’s already DONE. The pressure is off! Breathe and be thankful for your life in Christ right NOW. Look around. Be grateful. For He is faithful. And in His eyes, you are ALWAYS enough. You are loved. You are cherished. For God loves you for WHO you are, not just what you do. Because glorifying God is more about being, not doing. Being kind, caring, loving, merciful, intentional, faithful, and compassionate speaks far more about God’s character to others than the works of your hands. You are loved as His humble child, not just as a worker. Believe that today. You will find a spring of true life unlike anything this world will ever offer you…because unlike how jobs and people can disappoint us, choosing Jesus over the world will NEVER fail you. All of this can be summed up by one simple story found in Luke:
“Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” // Luke 10:38-42 //