Lent Day 36 – Flowering in the Desert

by Bishop Robert Barron

People who live in the desert speak of the flowering of the desert that takes place practically overnight.

Often we are forced to go through desert times where there doesn’t seem to be any possibility of flowering. Religiously intentional people will do so purposely and consciously, but most people are drawn through it quite against their will.

I knew a woman who endured a terrible depression. Depression is something of an epidemic in our country. There are all sorts of reasons for it: physiological, psychological, experiential, spiritual—but however it is produced, it is awful.

This woman was in that sort of state for an extended period of time. She came to see me and asked what it could possibly mean. I encouraged her to read the great desert texts of the Bible, especially Isaiah, that tell us flowers bloom precisely in the desert.

In time, and after much study, she became a therapist and now helps to guide others through their deserts.

The apostle James also talks about waiting for new life to spring forth: “Be patient, my brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil. He looks forward to it patiently while the soil receives the winter and the spring rains” (James 5:7).

There is so much packed into that image. The farmer watches the plants and crops grow, but he doesn’t fully grasp how this happens. The gestation takes place silently and in secret, below the ground. There is a time when a beautiful plant, exultant in the sun, is nothing more than a seed, buried under a foot of earth. There’s nothing beautiful about it, nothing impressive when it is buried in the earth.

So too are we during our desert periods.

What is the worst thing that a farmer could do? Pick at the plant impatiently, trying to hurry its growth. It takes just as much time as it takes. And what else is required? Winter and spring rains. What is more obnoxious, more disagreeable than winter rain? But without it, there will be no growth.

So the depressions, setbacks, failures, sufferings of our lives are like winter rains.

Do we trust in the work of the divine cultivator?


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  • Anton D

    ‘. . . but most people are drawn through it quite against their will. ‘

  • Rena Marzen

    Flowering in the desert. Yes, we have to trust in the work of the divine cultivator . . .

  • Alicia

    Do the footwork and leave the rest to God…
    ” Jesus I trust in You, Jesus I trust in You, Jesus I trust in You…”

  • Patrick Cassidy

    As somebody who was in an abusive relationship 8-9 years ago, I can honestly say that was the worst time in my life. I was angry at her who hurt me, and God for letting it happen to me.

    I met my now fiancée (wife in just over 2 months!) about 6 years ago.At that time, I began to forgive her, and ask God for forgiveness. I came to know that He was with me the entire time all the while preparing me for a life full of prayer and love. Just like St.Augustine and St.Paul, my life got turned around. While I am still growing in my faith, I know that I am on the right path and my life is now about loving and praising God in all areas of my life, and letting those desert flowers bloom.

  • Patricia Robertson

    “Trust God; clean house; help others” is a formula that seldom fails but it is a narrow road to get there from the depths of a clinical Depression. I have been to what I pray is the very darkest of that dark night and I hope not to go there again. Sometimes the spiritual awakening from that hell is as simple as washing the dishes. A friend calls it “household yoga.” Whatever you call it, for me it boils down to putting one foot in front of the other until I have walked myself out–with God’s help, which is there whether I am able to pray or trust or not. As another friend, who grew up in Morocco, always tells me, “Trust God, but tie up your camel.” My favorite prayer is “Jesus, you are the WAY through the wilderness. Show me your TRUTH, in which I journey, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, be in me the LIFE that draws me to God.”

  • ber

    How raw are your words today bishop Barron I suffer depression at its worst I found myself in bed unable to put a foot out of the bed try as I might I was in so much emotional pain in fact crippled by it I had a picture of Jesus and I cried please lord just get me to the chair today this he did first a day by day then week by week ect until I was able to live again not once did he leave me when there was noone else in my darkest moments. He was watering me with his graces
    I still have bad days but iv noticed it’s those very times that I chling to him we are kinderd spirits and it is here I grow more when I am happy there is not the same need or connection.
    Do I see growth do I bloom I don’t know it is all in the eye of the beholder Jesus lord
    I thank God for his pruning and for this new day
    Blessings on your day

  • Penelope

    This is so encouraging for me to read this morning. All of our five children are going through serious difficulties in their lives, and it is so hard for me as a grandmother and my husband as a grandfather, to see them going through these things. We are always present when needed, and more besides, and most importantly, we pray for them every day. They are so brave!

    It is so true as I look back on my life to remember the deserts, and to see the wonderful blooming that has come, most especially in the blessing of this wonderful family of ours, from the oldest to the youngest. Things are difficult, but I pray constantly that the Lord send us signs of His Presence in our lives, hope and promise for the future. And He does.

    Again I saw a couple of days ago, a crown of small purple flowers, that survived the big freeze of our Canadian winter snow, they were still alive under all the ice and snow that pressed heavily down upon them for almost two months.
    The Goodness of God is Ever Present. His Love Never Fails.
    Thank you Lord Jesus for your Divine Mercy that is Everlasting!

  • concerned citizen

    As they say for every night, there is a day. For every winter, there is a spring. In times of trials and tribulations, I always remember that Jesus who loves us, will answer our prayers in the way that is best for us. Just keep doing my best to solve my problem, and God will take care of the rest. As our Heavenly Father said in the Scriptures, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

  • TerriB

    Perfect timing! My family is in a desert experience as we look for a rental home as we prepare to close on our house this spring. We’ve had door after door slam shut after searching for a rental. I know God’s best is coming. In His time. Thanks for the great reflection..

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      The feast of St Joseph is three days away; pray to St Joseph to intercede for you, I will include you in my novena to St Joseph

      • TerriB

        Thanks!! I knew about novenas and about St.Joe’s feast day but I never connected them!! Too close to the situation I guess. Looking at 2 rentals tomorrow. I appreciate the suggestion and the prayers!

      • Geraldine (Gerry) Novotny

        Thank you for reminding me of St. Joseph’s feast day. I’m trying to sell my house and St. Joseph is the go-to saint to pray to for help in this regard.

        • Barbara Ann Baugh

          I will also recommend you to St Joseph today I haven’t yet said prayers to St Joseph as it isn’t sunup

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    ” Wait ” “Wait for Lord ” .

  • Carol Miller

    Thank you, Bishop Barron, for this wonderfully insightful reading. I am presently in the darkest, driest part of the desert right now. My younger daughter is about to lose her job and she is a single mother. I am consumed with worry, day and night. She suffers from a personality disorder and is very difficult to communicate with. I pray that eventually the flowers will bloom. I watched Jeannette Benkowitz last night on EWTN on suffering. She lost her adult son in a car accident. It was very helpful. Please pray for me and my daughter. Thank you. Carol M.

    • that florida lady

      Get help. God said not to worry!!! Don’t have to worry !! Why? God is very present ! When we worry we say that Heis not present. We call him a liar and that is not good.

      By the way, I don’t watch EW TN Or that person you were speaking of . Getting your own prayer life and discover God yourself . Read the word and the catechism and divineoffice.org. I gave a TV for let me know like a watch those things because I was sitting too much time watching TV and not enough time realizing God’s presence and praying through daily life and using my talents which is even more important than sitting there watching what we think are holy shows. Let God love us is what I was given advice by a priest friend of mine

      • Geraldine (Gerry) Novotny

        TV, cellular phones, internet, etc. have their pros and cons. If St. Paul were on earth, he would take advantage of this way of communicating, as would all the other apostles. If Jesus was on earth He would make Himself available to this technology for sure. Pope Francis has millions of Twitter fans. The Holy Spirit is the creator of EWTN and is world wide. I look forward to: The Journey Home, Women of Grace, Franciscan University Presents to name a few. And no commercials!

        • that florida lady

          Based on other people I try to keep it centred on God it’s nice it’s icing but that’s it . I gave up cable TV. So I can afford a vacation later on it’s a savings of about 1000 a year .

      • Elizabeth

        Today was the second time Full of Grace, Written and directed by Andrew Wyatt, was shown at our church. This time to the Ladies Guild. The emphasis Mary gives to Peter and the apostles is this: Remember when you first encountered Jesus and then walk in his footsteps. When you google the name, you can stream the movie and if you or your church likes to purchase it, it is only $9.96 on Amazon.com

        • ber

          Have it offers Elizabeth thanks for onfo

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Carol,

      Johnette and Fr. Mitch are two of my factored. They have allot of wisdom between them.

      Peace and prayers,


  • Paula Ziemski

    Love the gardening image. Helps me to remember that no matter how much I worry, the Master Gardener is in charge of my life. Lovely reminder.

  • that florida lady

    I have learned that being over emotional going with these emotions and what happens to me makes the desert . I can rely on God even more and knowing that he’s present and rely on that presence even more and that pretty much gets rid of what most people consider the desert experience . God is love and does not rely on our emotions . It’s OK we have them but we need to rely on God . Regarding that Farmer allegory, I know everything will work together to those who love the Lord -Romans 828 . So this garden does get done . When things happen to me I start saying to myself do I want to be mature?! Do I want to be a whiner and immature catholic Christian person? Stuff does happen to us but how he acted how we respond to it is another thing! It’s like a plant knowing when something happens like rain is going to come and that it is going to come. So? We just have to be prepared for it and know that God is present and loves us.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    The Holy Trinity is all Love, it is true that numbers reoccur in the Passion 3 Hour’s of Divine suffering in the Garden, 3 of Divine suffering on the Cross, 3 days to the resurrection (36 hours across 3 days Friday Saturday and Sunday) 3 blessing in Baptism ( In the name of the Father, Son, And Holy Spirit) 40 days in the Desert before Jesus called his disciple’s. 40 days that Jesus remain on Earth before the accession, 40 days of Lent before Easter, 7 days of creation, 7 days in a week of the calendar. 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostle’s, 12 month’s in the Calendar. Their is beauty in everything that the Trinity does. Flower’s in the Desert is the lease of all to the point. It is that the time that is spent on Mediation in the Desert that bring about the beauty in the Soul, spending time with you and God alone.Peace be with you and with your Spirit. Amen

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Kaye,

      Well said! In the Hebrew culture and language numbers are not random but symbolic in meaning!

      Thank you,


  • Dr. Mike

    Yes, these are archetypal truths that transcend time and culture. It’s like the Paschal Mystery: no resurrection without death. But, Bishop Robert, once you live in So. Cal for a few years, you will change your views about the “obnoxiousness” of winter rains, I promise you!

  • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

    Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ,

    At this hour I have read all the comments and found a common theme in each of them!

    Going back to the Baltimore Catechism, yes I am that old, we learned from in the 50’s, hope is one of the Theological virtues consisting of, Faith, Hope, and Charity!
    They are so named because they are “given to us”, by God. They cannot be earned even if you were a mystic. It is because of those virtues simple people become mystics!

    The most common question that God is asked daily is “Why”?

    Because of the presence of the Theological virtues imprinted on and in your souls, many of you have answered your own question.
    We can give all kinds of opinions to ourselves and others as to why there is suffering, but the reason for your sufferimng may be different from mine. Likewise, as for the type of suffering.

    Let me reemphicize one thing here.
    “God does not cause suffering….. He allows or disallows it. When you are truthful to yourself, we often are the cause or source of someoneelse’s suffering!

    Faith is believing God can do anything, hope is trusting God will do something and charity is trusting God’s Love for us will support us through all of our sufcrering, be it great or small!

    When Jesus was asked by Martha why He let her brother Lazarth die, Jesus replied that it was allowed by His Father so that He (Jesus) would be glorified, so that the world would come to believe that He was the Son of God!

    We cannot see the outcome of our sufferings and often they don’t make Amany sense and Our Lord doesn’t like seeing us suffer and suffers with us though we may not be aware of it.

    When we have hope, God changes things. This is, by no means easy but it is a reality.

    There is a scripture passage that was given to me at a prayer meeting back in the middle 90’sburied and I have never forgotten it because I didn’t resize at the time the trials that Iwould being going through in later years.

    Isaiah , chapter 55, verses 8 to the end of the chapter. You all know this one! “My thoughts are not your thoughts and My Ways are not your way…… “!

    Hkpe is God’s gift of change in our present situation. It may not come when we want it but it will come !

    Peace and prayers and hope be with all of you always!


    • Elizabeth

      Amen! Amen! and Amen! Michael

  • Dude_Abides

    “This, I thought, is what is meant by ‘thy will be done’ in the Lord’s Prayer, which I had prayed time and again without thinking about it. It means that your will and God’s will may not be the same. It means there’s a good possibility that you won’t get what you pray for. It means that in spite of your prayers you are going to suffer.” Wendell E. Berry; Jayber Crow
    Baby the rain must fall, baby the wind must blow… peace.

    • Elizabeth

      However, God wants to give you what you need not what you want. God always comes through.

      • Dude_Abides

        Yes amazing how that works Elizabeth.
        I can only speak of my own experiences and life, but often in the past I have petitioned to have God and the Holy Spirit to interject for me for things that I thought I “wanted” in my life, or at that time “needed” or so I thought.
        Yet as I say, when I look back on certain things I realize how God circuitously and mysteriously works in ways that are humanly unfathomable.

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I have been deeply depressed so much so that I was near to self destruction. I t was brought on by a deep self-hatred. But at the height of that self hatred God never left me even when I begged God to leave me.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Barbara,

      The beauty of the Theological virtues is they “act within you when you need them the most!

      “Lord, my soul is restless and it seeks to rest in You”!

      May the peace and joy that radiates from the Heart of God be always with you!


      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        Thank you Michael

  • Christine Gloria Catherine Whe

    This is a very beautiful reflection.

  • Jackie

    I want to trust in the divine cultivator.

    I know deep down in the recesses of my heart is where this will happen and yet I truly hate the process, It is painful and one never knows how long it will last. When does one tell herself, enough is enough and re-surface into the world?

    It’s a good thing that I have somewhat of a schedule to follow during the day because the nights can be awfully long when you are alone and too much alone time can lead to depression.

    It’s important to have balance in one’s life , not too busy, not too alone. I often wonder how Jesus went through his day and try to see myself going through his journey. Being there when others needed him and yet finding just enough solitude to prepare himself for another day of seeking his followers, listening and teaching.

    One needs much patience because when you have a vision like Jesus did, it must have been hard for him to continue moving forward when he had so many people against him.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Jackie,

      It was difficult for Jesus because during His time on earth He never drew on His Divinity!



      • Jackie

        Jesus in touch with the Father was given the strength to carry on the mission. Even his last cries were to his Father when he felt abandoned.

        Like Jesus we pray to the Father to give us courage to move on even when life seems dismal.

        We oftentimes let our feelings control the outcome of a situation. Not that these feelings are wrong but our re-action to them could cause us difficulties.

        • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell



          Peace, and prayers!


          • Jackie


  • rtclovesmac

    Over the sat week I have watched the transition of pear trees, dogwoods and cherry tree unfold.

    Barren trees transforming from over night rains, warm weather and sun shine to a magnificent white canopy of blossom that will soon burst forth like a snowfall.

    Lost blossoms bring emerald green leaves and life giving fruit that energizes our lives.

  • gloriagarringer

    so beautifully stated

  • Gretchen Robinson

    Greetings in Christ dear brothers and sisters. Yes, yes, the desert experience is a time to wait on the Lord!

    I wanted to add, very simply, that during our attentiveness in prayer and God’s Mercy in our times of dryness, abandonment and misery, we must also be aware of that which we must attend to in the natural realm of coming along to wholeness in Christ, and namely, that we must also be careful to see if there is possibility that some depressions may be clinical or even genetic. As one that is living 11 years now as a single parent of six children who has suffered through years of trying to save my marriage with a mentally disabled spouse, it is imperative to have openness to reading warning signs that some depression and mental/psychological suffering may be clinical, and in need of care, tending and counsel.

    Two of my children are now suffering through such difficulty that impedes their living and wholeness, and it is a constant trial of seeking for that help that God purposely places in my life, both spiritual, physical and medical–and that the Body of Christ is made of people who are given to respond in love and prayer for those suffering and in need . God will give us everything we need to find how it is that we shall be travel from the desert of our lives, and to find his Healing Love. And as those with whom we travel who are in need of healing, let us be present to offer our compassion, assistance and mercy. His Provident Love is open for those that seek and follow, and the Lord is truly close to the brokenhearted!

    In the Lord of Life,

  • Barbara

    I have often said that the plants greatest work takes place underground when it cannot be seen. Think of what that tiny seed must do to break through the heavy dark soil. But yet it yearns to break through, reaching toward the sun, receiving nourishment, light, and life, and at the same time, bringing us beauty and life sustaining sustenance. We are likened to those seeds!

  • Linda Dokey

    Thank you Lord Jesus for All the deserts in my journey of life to reflect and begin anew. Amen