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?