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A Barren Heart: God is in the Desert

I would not choose this barren place were it up to me, but I pray that I may be found faithful in following Him through it and that it will bear great fruit.

Something deep within is calling me to trust in the goodness of this dry season.  If God has chosen this desert for me for now, I will follow Him into it.  In the desert there are no distractions, nothing to please my eye and tempt me to look elsewhere. Lazy flesh is being asked to learn greater discipline; a faint heart is being urged on to courage; a spirit full of me is dared to risk being emptied, trusting in Him to fill the void with His own spirit.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - I'm not one to mince words:  I hate the desert.  I have spent too many years of my life living in deserts, and I absolutely hated it. Sand, especially when it's blown around by strong winds, has a very distinct smell that permeates everything which I find most unpleasant. Cactus I can do without. Desert critters and creepy-crawlies I can most certainly live without! 

And the heat... the relentless, oppressive heat. It dries you up and sucks the life out of you. No, the desert is only good for scorpions, snakes and cactus. Give me cool temperatures, green grass, tall trees, a colorful autumn and a white winter and I'm a happy gal, thank you very much.

While "exiled" to the Mojave Desert a few years ago, compliments of the Army, I would often grumble to our priest how I hated the desert and everything about it, to which he would reply with a sneaky grin, "But Jen, God is in the desert."  I would usually shoot back, "Why can't God be in the mountains or the trees and lakes and green grass and the snow?"  "Oh, He's there, too, but He is more fond of the desert," my priest would insist.

Well, God may be fond of the desert, but I am not. So it is much to my chagrin that I find myself back in the desert lately, without having moved from my tree-surrounded home. Something has taken over my heart and even my mind. I can only describe it as desolation. 

I feel as barren and dry as the most unforgiving desert on earth. The landscape of my interior has no flowing water, no color, no fragrance, no softness or beauty. Just barrenness and silence.

I long for inspiration, but it does not come. I plead for some variation, some highs and lows, but all remains flat and dull. Gone are the passionate feelings I delight in, the profound movements of my heart that let me soar and dive and soar again.

What I wouldn't give even for tears and sadness, but even they seem to have left me. For someone like me who wears her heart on her sleeve, the absence of feeling is unsettling. It's rather like a car without gas and it's hard to move forward.

It is easy to be disturbed by the barrenness and alarmed by the silence.  Who among us wants to hear silence at the end of our prayers? Who finds it easy to come faithfully to sit with emptiness and offer praise to God when He seems to have vanished? It is tempting to be scared and self-pitying, turning inward to lick my poor heart's wounds and wonder if God has given up on me.

Yet, I sense something else - a resolve to sit with the emptiness and listen to the silence.  Something deep within is calling me to trust in the goodness of this dry season.  If God has chosen this desert for me for now, I will follow Him into it. 

I don't believe I go there alone; He is leading me. If He is testing my faith, then I, too,want to find out what stuff it is made of. I may be loathe to admit it, but I think my priest friend was right: God is in the desert.

In the desert there are no distractions, nothing to please my eye and tempt me to look elsewhere.  It is a hostile environment in many ways, and my creature comforts do nothing to fill the desolation, so I am compelled to turn to the Lord, hungry for relief. At first the silence is deafening and jarring, but if I lean into it and accept the stillness, then I may finally be able to hear His gentle voice again.

That is my hope and prayer for this barren Lent. That by His grace, I just might learn to walk steadfastly with Him through this spiritual desert, growing in trust and obedience. Whether He speaks or not, I will pray. If I feel nothing at all, I will praise Him. If my mind is a void and my heart empty, I will just quietly bow before Him with humility and gratitude for all He has done.

It's a struggle because it requires a repeated act of my will, which isn't easy to muster when the heart is arid. Lazy flesh is being asked to learn greater discipline; a faint heart is being urged on to courage; a spirit full of me is dared to risk being emptied, trusting in Him to fill the void with His own spirit.

As the one who cried out in the desert, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths" also said, "He must become greater; I must become less."  John 3:30

I would not choose this barren place were it up to me, but I pray that I may be found faithful in following Him through it and that it will bear great fruit. The words of Isaiah bring me comfort and hope:  "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:19

If today your experience is anything like mine, walk into the desert, sit with the emptiness and the silence and do not despair. He has promised, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom...Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.  The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs."  Isaiah 35:1,6-7

Yes, God is in the desert.

-----

Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and homeschooling mother of four children. She runs on dark chocolate and mochas. Visit her online at Wake Up, Deborah!

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.

Keywords: Lent, desert, barren, spiritual dryness, prayer, struggle, Jennifer Hartline



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1 - 9 of 9 Comments

  1. Jeany Martin
    8 months ago

    I am a product of the same trials, struggles, and seemingly blind groping toward the prize of peace woven through every cell of my being. Now at age 70, making progress in spite of meandering, flailing, doubt, storms of the soul, temptations of the flesh, and self-sabotaging digression. I coveted making great leaps forward but now value any sign of progress - even the sand under my fingernails - I used to value manicures. No great sin, that, just a vain, malingering distraction, which is bad enough. When looking back I learned, finally, to look only at my progress - not comparing mine with others.

  2. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    ODE TO SAINT JOSEPH tomorrow 3/19/14 : Saint Joseph's Feast day

    Joseph, humble, silent vase
    of splendor and abundant grace
    protector, defender of our Lord
    as a strong and flaming sword

    Joseph, most just, most pure
    what no man could ever ensure
    guardian of the holy house
    stronghold of your Holy Spouse

    Joseph, treasurer of the Heavenly King
    for Whom the angels in adoration sing
    so underestimated in the world's eyes
    with whom you never did compromise

    Joseph, without titles behind your name
    you never sought perishable fame
    you were an honest simple worker
    envied and attacked by the evil lurker

    Joseph, example of husband and father
    you never thought of yourself, but rather
    in obedience to God, with love and humility
    you shouldered the caring responsibility

    Joseph, assist us in our daily tasks
    never forsake us nor the one who asks
    to be non-judgmental and steadfast
    to obtain those virtues of yours at last.

    Rita Biesemans March 19, 2011

  3. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS

    O Mary, your bitter tears
    my heart do pierce
    Our Mother is crying
    Her Son is dying
    to save us humanity
    from complete insanity.
    At the foot of the Cross
    for words I feel at a loss
    our sins are causing You distress
    I'm begging You for forgiveness
    I offer You my fears and mishap
    crawling on Your Mother's lap
    O my Jesus, I need You, I need You
    satan plans coup after coup
    to destroy me, hoping I'd revolt
    he scares me like a thunderbolt
    but while walking in Your footstep
    on satan's knuckles I will rap
    enough, enough, I do tell him
    the cup is stored unto the brim.
    Kneeling at His cross's foot
    Jesus tells me to stay put
    "Let My Graces thee overflow
    My Cross gave satan the final blow"
    I love you so much My child
    and while dying He even smiled.
    Thank You, Mary for this gift,
    and by this my soul did lift.

    Rita Biesemans, Good Friday 3/29/2013

  4. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    CHRIST the KING of my LIFE


    O my Master, O my King
    too many times I feel the sting
    of that evil nasty tempter
    but I tell him : CAVEAT emptor !

    Jesus, I gave You my life and my vow
    my past, my future and my now
    my nothingness and my nihility
    but You provided me ability

    I feel empty, of no use
    while I try to sing the blues
    please my Savior, don’t say NAY
    let Your creature happily bray

    On whom can I build, if not on You
    who else can I trust through and through
    do provide and gird up my strength
    to be victorious at length

    Please Lord, hear my pleadings
    stop the serpent’s vicious misleadings
    halt the attacks of that pumped up gnu
    for I belong to You and ONLY You !

    Amen
    Rita Biesemans, February 12 2014


    Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat

  5. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    MOURNING AND WEEPING IN THIS VALLEY OF TEARS

    I could swim in the tears I shed
    but the thing is : I can’t swim
    I will soon float on my waterbed
    for my cup is filling to the brim

    Didn’t you say : you would follow Me
    on the Way to the Cross
    that was planted on Calvary
    don’t look at it as being dross

    This is the best investment
    you could ever have made
    give it a reassessment
    and all your sorrows will fade

    I know all too well deep in my heart
    that nothing happens without Your consent
    sometimes though it can be very tart
    and You, went through it till the end

    Daughter, take up your cross after Me
    and keep walking in My Footsteps
    that’s how you will win the Grand Prix
    without driving any extra laps.

    Always keep your handkerchiefs or tissues handy
    Rita Biesemans, December 13 2013

  6. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    HOLY WEEK APRIL 2009

    Many a word has never been spoken
    but in the silence of my heart
    Many a battle has never been fought
    but on the battlefield of my soul
    Many a tear has never been dried
    but by the dryness I feel in myself
    Many a cry has never been heard
    but by the One Who hears and consoles.

    Rita Biesemans, Holy Week April 2009

  7. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    CONVERSATION WITH JESUS IN THE HOLY TABERNACLE

    I can live without fancy goods
    without flamboyant clothes or foods
    but not without my Jesus, my God, my Lord
    My Master, my Savior, my eternal Reward

    Although You, I don’t deserve
    don’t let me make the swerve
    from the saving, Heavenly route
    I would be lost without a doubt

    I hear You say : I set you apart
    feel the beating of My Heart
    it beats with love for you
    believe it or not, but it is true

    Ask Me everyday for this gift
    for My love for you knows no thrift
    for you I still have so much in store
    but first go close the back door

    I won’t allow you to escape
    from the stage of the great reshape
    once completed I might call you home
    freed from the human pressure dome.

    Thank you, My daughter for visiting Me, for consoling Me in MY loneliness

    Rita Biesemans, December 15 2013

  8. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    MY SOUL IS THIRSTY FOR YOU, MY LORD

    My soul is dwindling in the desert

    Each step I take may be a hazard

    Loneliness is my companion

    But Jesus rather is the Champion

    Of total abandonment and solitude

    That's how WE show HIM our gratitude

    Rita Biesemans. September 14th 2011

  9. RikiRibi
    9 months ago

    ELI ELI LAMA SABACHTANI

    Eli Eli
    lama sabachtani !
    Is that what you think, My child ?
    calm down, trust Me, don't be riled
    I am always at your side,
    don't forget, also for you I died.
    The world makes a lot of noise
    those who don't follow, it gladly destroys.
    I work in silence to open the doors
    I will provide you the perfect oars
    to steer your boat in My direction
    which will request a lot of circumspection.
    For you I don't set exorbitant expectations
    nor turn away when I see your frustrations
    I never promised you life would be easy
    more often than not it can be very cheesy.
    Stay with Me, My child, don't ever leave Me
    I hold you tight each time you want to flee
    you are so much Mine, I need you, I need you
    when it's difficult I pull you through.
    I promised you the victory
    which presently might seem contradictory
    but know My child that GOD NEVER LIES
    the way I will act will be a surprise.
    Come rest at My Heart while My Love is mounting
    and every hair on your head I have been counting.
    Walk in My footsteps it's your only security
    to continue your life in innocence and purity.
    This world is heading for total destruction
    'cause it surrendered to the evil one's seduction.
    Offer Me all your doubts and hardships
    and I will turn them into Divine Worships.
    I wait for you, My daughter
    to refresh your soul with My Salvation Water.

    Your Jesus, Your Lord and Savior who loves you more than you can imagine.
    Rita Biesemans June 17th 2013

    I LOVE the desert, I prayed the Lord to bring me to the desert, I LOVE cacti, the sand, the silence. He brought me to the desert but also to the spiritual desert. I understand now that we have to go the it to come closer to Him and to be purified. Even Jesus went thru the desert.
    It's not easy far from, the feeling of complete desolation can be devastating. But when cacti bloom the desert turns into a jewel. Thank you Jennifer Hartline for this writing, it helped me enormously, so I'm not alone in my feelings. May God bless you and St Joseph (tomorrow Feast Day) help us in the silence of our hearts. Rita

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