Joy of the Redeemed
35 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Blossoms in the Desert
From: Our Daily Journey
The most dangerous place for Christians to be is in comfort and safety, detached from the suffering of others,” argue the authors of Common Prayer, suggesting that following Jesus includes a commitment to the “abandoned places of the empire”—places the world has given up on. In a special way, those places where we might expect only despair are often where we see most clearly the persistent love of a God who nevergives up on His world.
It’s only natural to want protection from suffering and loss. But Jesus taught that, paradoxically, it’s when we “try to hang on” to our lives that we lose them, and it’s when we “give up” on securing our lives that we find real life (Luke 9:24).
Over and over in His ministry, Jesus called for His followers to choose another path than the pursuit of power and security. When He attended a banquet where guests were scrambling for “seats of honor,” He taught that they should instead choose the “lowest” seat at the table (Luke 14:7,10). Then He went even further. Turning to the host, He said our celebrations shouldn’t be events for our “friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors” (Luke 14:12). Instead, they should be feasts for “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. . . . those who could not repay you” (Luke 14:13-14).
We are all poor before God, able only to receive His gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). It’s only in humble awareness of our need that we can draw near to His heart (James 4:10). And as we follow Jesus’ example of self-giving love in the hardest places of our world, we will also witness new creation where no one thought possible, new life blossoming in the desert (Isaiah 35:1).
Receiving Yourself in the Fires of Sorrow
As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.
We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.
Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exod. 14:15).
Imagine, O child of God, if you can, that triumphal march! The excited children restrained from ejaculations of wonder by the perpetual hush of their parents; the most uncontrollable excitement of the women as they found themselves suddenly saved from a fate worse than death; while the men followed or accompanied them ashamed or confounded that they had ever mistrusted God or murmured against Moses; and as you see those mighty walls of water piled by the outstretched hand of the Eternal, in response to the faith of a single man, learn what God will do for His own.
Dread not any result of implicit obedience to His command; fear not the angry waters which, in their proud insolence, forbid your progress. Above the voices of many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea, “the Lord sitteth King for ever.”
A storm is only as the outskirts of His robe, the symptom of His advent, the environment of His presence.
Dare to trust Him; dare to follow Him! And discover that the very forces which barred your progress and threatened your life, at His bidding become the materials of which an avenue is made to liberty.
–F. B. Meyer
Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind,
He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Go on.”
And His hand will lead you through—clear through–
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But over their bed you shall walk dry shod
In the path that your Lord will make.
In the morning watch, ‘beneath the lifted cloud,
You shall see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed,
You shall be no more afraid;
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.
–Annie Johnson Flint