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.
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!
© 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.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »