Highlands Blog

When You’re Living in the Wasteland

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Posted in Highlands Blog under Faith, Personal Growth

Person laying face down in the desert.

Life Isn’t Always Picturesque

In this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light… (Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE)

It is a tricky business to successfully navigate the emotional badlands that we stagger into when life takes an unexpected track. Childhood plans for the future involve a great deal of success and very little failure. We foresee a lifetime of ambling up a clear path on a gentle incline that summits at a lovely vista revealing our successes along the way. There is a dissonance however between adult experience and youthful fancy. We find that things and people, including ourselves, have a maddening tendency to veer off track. This is upsetting to our picturesque expectations.

When we find ourselves in this unanticipated wasteland of broken hearts or broken dreams we assume that something has gone very, very wrong, that we had a misstep somewhere. We have lost our bearings, the “You are Here” marking on our map no longer seems correct and a muddy fog obscures our ability to move forward. These barren moments breed fear that with our next movement we will turn an ankle or stumble over an unexpected precipice.

In Need of a Reversal?

It is natural to become jaded or despairing in these enigmatic times. “What is the point?” we think. Doing the right things doesn’t necessarily carry us out of the desert, and often multiplies our distress. We are not the first ones to think this way:

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1).

The psalms contain many passages of lament which plead with God to reverse the order of things.

O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol (Psalm 31:17).

They saw then what we see now; the wicked gaining the upper hand. They accrue prosperity and power while the faithful reap derision and difficulty. If our God is so powerful, why doesn’t He knock them down a few pegs? He can and He most assuredly will, but He works according to His timetable not ours.

A God of Great Reversals

The God of the Psalmist is still our God today and He is a God of great reversals. We need only look at the history of the faithful to see His hand reverse many a hopeless situation restoring what the locust had eaten. He does this for individuals as well as for cultures and nations. Sometimes these things are so intertwined we cannot separate them. Think of the stories of barren women who waited and waited and waited: Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth. Reversals from barrenness to fruitfulness for these women bore more than just children for their families, they bore hope for the nations. Joseph’s subjection to slavery and imprisonment in Egypt was suddenly and dramatically reversed placing him in a position of power and wealth which didn’t merely change his personal circumstances, but fed the nation and confirmed the plans of the Lord in bringing His people to Egypt.

If we follow this story further we see a reversal for the infant Moses who was protected from Pharaoh’s deadly edict. And, an even greater reversal when He used Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian slavery, not as destitute slaves with no destination but carrying the wealth of the Egyptians to a land of milk and honey.

Yes, the God we serve delights in turning things upside down. Really we should say right side up, though we have a dreadful propensity to vertigo which impedes our ability to discern up from down. This problem of dizziness may be attributed to our own faithless doubting of the awesome power and caring hand of our Heavenly Father. We don’t actually trust Him to lead us and make ourselves the most ridiculous backseat drivers in existence. “Are You sure we are on the right road?” we incessantly question. “Maybe we should turn around.” These things we say to the One who built the roads, directs the traffic, and is driving the car. How silly is that, when our eyes can only see as far into the future as that scrap of pavement visible between the headrests? Exceedingly silly.

These great reversals are not merely something God used to do. No, He continues to reverse hearts and souls. Paul speaks of this kind of reversal to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

What a beautiful thing—what we once were, we now are not! A great reversal indeed!

In this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to get by.

With the reversal of our position from unclean sinners to sanctified believers we gain a great hope that we will see the Lord continue working reversals in our lifetimes as He has in time past. Not only should we expect to see them, we should expect to be vessels used for affecting them. He has commissioned us to commit our labor to this cause and take the same gospel that reversed the decay in our own lives to the nations teaching them to obey His commands (Matthew 28). In America today, we don’t have to take two steps outside our doors to find neighbors in desperate need of a reversal to turn their lives right side up.

Great Expectations

We must crack the door so our neighbors can see the light. We do not take up this task with the expectation of defeat. No, we commit ourselves to the truth of God’s Word. When He says, “All things work together for good,” we believe Him even when we are in the wasteland. When He says He is making His enemies a footstool for the risen Son (Psalm 110), we believe Him even when it looks like the culture war is lost. We must continue to believe that what the Lord has said He will do, and live in expectation that we will see stunning reversals in our hearts, in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in the nations.

In this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to shine.

Oh if God is on my side
Yeah if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me?


Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATH

  • John

    “Are You sure we are on the right road?” could have been asked countless times by Joni Eareckson Tada and countless others but hindsight reveals that they were always on the right (and only) road. Why is it so hard sometimes for the finite to rest in the infinite?

    • I doubt there are any of us who never ask those questions. A product of our limited view and understanding as well as knowing ourselves well enough to know that sometimes we do get ourselves tangled up in sin which makes a mess of things. We can, however, keep from giving in to despair by remembering who God is and how He works. It also doesn’t hurt if we keep the kind of friends who will remind us of these things. Those kind of friends are priceless.

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