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Amidst the Desert

5796555368_374a3aa447_oIt was a sweltering June morning hiking through Israel’s Wilderness of Zin. Barren. Parched. Desolate.

This was not the land of milk and honey. This was the land of dust and rock. This was the desert where the Israelites wandered—where God sustained his people on a humble diet of manna, and where he lovingly rooted out their false gods before entering the Promised Land.

The desert isn’t where I picture having an “aha” moment. The desert is where I’m overheated, exhausted and tested. But that’s exactly the place where I believe God wants to teach us some of his most compelling lessons. And in the middle of the desert, here in Israel, one of those lessons was about my need for water—in more ways than one.

When it comes to staying hydrated, I am notoriously forgetful. Drinking eight servings of water a day? I’ll be lucky to remember to drink a couple servings. It’s a problem, I know. But traveling the Holy Land—with many of our days creeping into triple-digit temperatures—I learned how much I needed water: like, “don’t stay hydrated and you might not make it out of here alive” kind of need. But in the middle of this arid land, God continued to whisper to me about what it means to rely on a different kind of water—living water.

Jesus told the crowds that if anyone is thirsty, come to him and drink : “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In speaking with a Samaritan woman at a well, Jesus stated, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.” (John 4:13-14)

Jesus tells us that he is our source of refreshment. This isn’t tepid tap water straight from the backyard hose we’re talking about. No, Jesus offers exactly what we need. He shows us what we hunger and thirst for!

But in the middle of this arid land, God continued to whisper to me about what it means to rely on a different kind of water—living water.

 

Trekking through Israel, I thought a lot about how tempting it is to settle for less. Our flesh does a good job trying to quench our thirst with plenty of other imposters. Maybe the lie that satisfaction is found in a significant other, or that keeping up with the Joneses will do the trick, or that we—not God—have it all under control. The list can be exhaustive. How often do we make do with these “broken cisterns that can hold no water?” (Jeremiah 2:13)

That lesson spoke loudest to me the day we witnessed a wadi flash flood. June rain is a rarity in the Israeli desert. Driving through the Negev region, our guide assured us he hadn’t seen rain in this area in at least 20 years. But rain it did. What began as a few sprinkles gathered into small streams. Larger streams soon gave way to raging currents, roadside waterfalls and flooded streets. Thankfully, we arrived safely at our destination.

Later that evening, I began to think about the flash flood. Here we were surrounded by bone-dry land. Yet when the rain came, the ground could not absorb it. Parched and thirsty, the soil could not soak in the very gift it desperately needed. Instead, the water that could so easily bring relief rolled past.

How often do our lives look so strikingly similar? How often do we neglect our “soil?” Are we preparing our hearts for the kind of life-giving refreshment that can only come from God? Are we actively seeking to intimately know our Lord, to savor his presence, to delight in him? To be in his Word, not just for the sake of checking off a moral checklist, but to grow to better understand his attributes and character?

The first step in preparing our “soil” is to humbly submit to God—to admit our need for Him … for His living water. Psalm 42:1-2 says “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

Are we actively looking into the crevices of our heart for the things that we need to repent of? To confess and turn from? Confession roots out our heart’s arid, lifeless soil so that God can bring new life to barren areas. “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Are we actively looking into the crevices of our heart for the things that we need to repent of?

 

What dry and barren areas do you struggle to willfully give him? What steps are you taking to seek his true and lasting refreshment?

May we seek to be a people who thirst after God, and God alone!

“Your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.”  (Isaiah 26:8-9)

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Image Credit: Ian W. Scott, Creative Commons


Jaime Strmiska

About

Jaime Strmiska lives in Fresno, California, and works with the Spiritual Formation Team at The Well Community Church. Besides her love of writing, she enjoys pointing others to Christ, having non-surface-y convos. She and her husband, Matt, also have an inkling for diving into other cultures and adventures. Her desire is to be a woman after God’s own heart and to encourage others in that same journey.


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