Every so often in my life, things are going along swimmingly. I know where I’m going, the path is clear, progress is being made. Everything makes sense and the future is bright. I like when life is like that.
But then, seemingly overnight, everything goes dry. Sand has obscured my path, and I feel like I’m in a barren wasteland, uncertain of which direction to head. I wonder if all the progress and clarity I’d experienced was merely a mirage, because suddenly all signs of life are absent.
I am stranded in the desert and all hope is drying up.
Perhaps you’ve felt this way recently. Maybe you feel this way now.
Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t have a lot of experience with deserts. Acres and acres of cornfields, yes; barren expanses of desert, no. To me, deserts were hot, sandy, stretches of nothing, save for an occasional cactus and those ominous cattle skulls. Of course, they can be those things. Officially, a desert is a dry, desolate and barren area of land. It often looks dead, void of life and hope.
But that’s only if you’re not looking closely enough.
Deserts are harsh, but not lifeless. I took the picture that inspired this painting whilst exploring the Saguaro National Park a few years ago. It was spectacular, and unlike anything I ever experienced growing up in Illinois. The signs of life aren’t as obvious as in a jungle or forest, but they are there, just hidden.
I can’t help but draw some parallels to my roots in the agricultural heartland. Consider planting: After you cover a seed with soil, is the moment you see its first green shoot emerge from the earth the first time growth happened since you buried it? Of course not. It was always in the process of transforming, it just wasn’t immediately visible. When you see rows and rows of tall sweet corn or endless fields of amber waves of grain, it’s easy to forget that in the springtime, those acres of soil seemed barren and lifeless even though they’d already been planted.
Similarly, it can take several months to visually notice the effect of pregnancy. But cells began multiplying and growing rapidly since the first moment of conception.
In deserts, life is always on the move. We just aren’t always able to see its progress.
When we feel stranded in the desert, we need to remind ourselves that all is not lost. It’s hard to be patient and stay hopeful when all evidence seems to suggest otherwise. Please know that when you find yourself in the desert, you are not deserted. God is always working, even when He seems silent or absent.
It’s hard to believe a plant so hostile and forbidding could produce a bloom so magnificent.
Hang in there. Good things are happening, right this moment, and will spring forth in time.
Keep a sharp eye out for proof of life.