I heard someone recently talking about how God is “a desert God”. He had just visited Israel for the first time, and I’m sure that had a profound impact on his perspective. He talked about Moses encountering God in the desert. His comment reminded me of something I hear a lot.
“God is found in the wilderness.”
“God is louder in your pain.”
“God is found in the hard times.”
It bothers me. Because it implies that God only comes around at certain times. That He’s absent and only bothers to show up when things get tough. It implies that we need trials to be close to God.
Is God only found in the desert, the hard times?
No. Here’s what I think. This whole line of thought people use is like observing how trees lose their leaves before winter and then blaming the lack of leaves for the snow. Just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean that’s the only time they happen. Just because one thing happens before another doesn’t mean the first thing is the cause of the second.
People read the Old Testament and, seeing all the encounters and miracles God did in the desert, they conclude that He is a “desert God”. He gets labeled because He chose a desert people.
But He’s not a desert God. He’s a people God — a being of relationship. The people He chose to meet and have relationship with happened to be in the desert, and were available while alone and in need.
We find God when we start looking
Here’s how it really works: God meets us wherever we are willing to receive Him. We sometimes elevate or idealize the difficult times, the hitting of rock bottom, the times when we’ve been stripped of the illusion of control and reached the end of ourselves. We say, “God meets us in the hard times” as if He arranges it or prefers those circumstances.
No, no, no, no, NO!
It’s a false conclusion. Study of His Word shows us His character, and it quickly becomes clear that He is always there, always ready to commune with us. (I’ll list some verses to this effect at the end of this post. May He speak to our hearts through them.)
If God appears to show up only when we are at “rock bottom,” it’s just that too often we aren’t looking for Him, listening to what He’s already told us, or willing to submit to and follow Him when all is going well! When all is well, we too often fall to the temptation to think “I’ve got this”.
We treat God as if He’s a limited resource, a special weapon only to pull out when we really need Him. We treat Him as if He’s too high and mighty to be interested in our daily lives or to have an opinion on the details of our choices.
But He is limitless. And infinitely interested in communion with us. I tell you, He will help you pick your wardrobe if you let Him. He’ll tell you which stores to hit first when you’re running errands. He’ll put you at the store when they’re having a sale on exactly what you need. Do these details matter? Do these little choices really make a difference?
It may not appear so at first, but over time, little things add up. The way I dress and present myself has opened conversations with people who needed encouragement. The choices of what food to eat has kept my family from the ravages of modern food allergies and chronic illness. Following His promptings for managing our financial resources has allowed us to make significant impacts on others’ lives when they needed help.
Hungry for God? Good. Because He promises that those who hunger and thirst after Him will be filled. Those who desperately seek Him — in the good times as well as the bad — will find Him when they search with all their hearts.
The take away
So ask yourself (and this question is for me, the next time I read this post):
WHAT WILL IT TAKE for me to be willing to SEEK God out, LISTEN to Him until I know what He is saying, and to DO whatever He says?
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Deuteronomy 4:9
“I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.” – Proverbs 8:17
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9
“…so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…” Acts 17:27
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” – Hebrews 13:5
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.'” – John 14:23