Once they stepped foot on dry land, the journey began. The waters closed behind them, and a long walk lay ahead. There were as many as 2 million of them on what was meant to be a short trip, a trip to a new and glorious promised land from God. The grumbling and complaining started almost as soon as the trip began. The hot, dry journey, the food, lack of water, and yearning for what they had just left were daily topics of discussion. 

Finally, a journey that was meant to be a short time turned into forty years of wandering. Constantly moving from place to place, camping for a few days, and then up and moving again became a way of life. The complaining continued. Moses was frustrated. God was frustrated. Moses was ready to give up and even lost his temper, preventing him, in the end, from entering the ultimate goal. 

Amid their frustrations, the people were so caught up in their dilemma that they failed to see what God was doing around them. They were so busy looking at the desert that they missed God’s loving care along the way. For forty years, their clothes never wore out, and their shoes never developed holes. When they needed water, God provided it. Every day God provided them food to eat. When they wanted meat, God provided for them. In the middle of their desert, God never abandoned them and their needs. The problem was they never really embraced his love for them. They had abandoned God.

Everyone walks deserts in their life. Our deserts are often different, but still to us, they are hard journeys to travel. Much like the Israelites, we, at times, find ourselves on the complaining end of the journey. We dwell in the negative, failing to see where God is alive and active, walking with us each step of the way.

To some, their desert is illness, sometimes serious enough to be life-threatening. To others, their desert may be finances, never enough money to give us what we want in this life or even our basic needs. Again, some may be in a desert of family drama. Marital relationships may be falling apart, children going astray, or dysfunctional family issues. Maybe their desert is the death of someone loved and now missed so much. A desert may be the loss of dreams that will not come true, leaving us in a world of depression, wondering what lies ahead.

It’s easy to get caught up in the grumbling and complaining of what is happening in our world. Our desert looks like it is an endless journey, one in which we are trapped. Yet, what we must remember is that we are never alone in our desert, and if we take the time to look around, we’ll see God. If we take time to stop, take a deep breath, and open our eyes, there is always hope in the desert, because God is there. God never abandons us.

I’ve often shared the story about the adoption of our first son. His name was Scottie. We couldn’t have our own children, so we decided to adopt, but when we did, we found ourselves thrown into a desert situation. A few months after he came into our home, we discovered he had Cerebral Palsy. Tears, depression, and various other emotions followed. The question, “Why would God do this to us? Why, when we couldn’t have our own children would he give us a handicapped child?” Then while in the desert, I started to look at things differently. In the middle of my grumbling and questioning God, He helped me see things from a different angle. I realized that God had not given him to us as much as he had really given us to him. God was not leaving us alone in the desert, he had a plan and was there all the time. He’d later bless us with another healthy son. 

The point to be taken is that everyone has deserts in their life. It’s how we take the journey that matters. We must realize that no matter what our journey, God will be there to answer our needs and help us through a tough time. In the end, with his help we’ll make it to the end of the journey.

God never abandons us. If you look down in the sands of your desert, you’ll always see an extra pair of footprints. Those are His.

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.

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