Do you ever feel like you’re in a spiritual desert even when you’re actively pursuing God? Ever feel dead tired spiritually — even as you’re trying to follow Jesus? Me too. Then I found a beautiful (and surprising) encouragement tucked away in the Scriptures. The truths in those words have re-awakened my hope. It’s changed everything.
It all started in the book of Joshua. I read about when the Lord stopped the flow of the Jordan River so the Israelites (and the Ark of the Covenant) could cross.
And my brain exploded a little.
Okay, before we get to the brain explosion, let me bring you up to speed. After the Israelites crossed the river, the Lord instructed them to set up a memorial using stones taken from the bottom of the Jordan riverbed (where the Ark was held on dry ground as the people crossed). Here’s a quick excerpt from the account:
[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over.” – Joshua 4:21-23
Did you see it?
He dried it up.
The Lord dried up a path through the Red Sea until they had crossed over.
And He dried up a path through the Jordan River until they had crossed over.
Okay, okay, so the Lord did the same thing in two places. Big deal, right? But, oh man, I relate to the two places in very different ways — and it’s rocking my world (cue brain explosion). Think about it with me:
Start with the Red Sea. We often associate the sea with “the wind and the waves.” You know, life’s struggles. Spiritually speaking, drying a path through the sea evokes images of the Lord making a way through trials, hardship, or distractions. That makes sense. (Also sounds insane and miraculous. But it makes sense because it sounds like something our loving, powerful God would do.)
But now come to the Jordan River. Unlike the sea, we usually associate a river with life and joy. Let the river flow. Streams of mercy. The river of life. But here, God stopped the flow of the river. He dried it up before them. And a dried up river is pretty much exactly how I feel when I say, “I feel spiritually dry,” or “I’m in a dry season.”
Now, sometimes that dry season comes because I’ve been disobedient or stopped investing in spiritual disciplines (reading my Bible, prayer, and worship to name a few) that draw me near to the source of abundant life, God Himself.
But sometimes I’m doing all these things and I still feel spiritually dry.
Today, I see a new possibility. Perhaps the Lord Himself has dried it up before me until I cross over. Cross over what? I don’t know. Not yet, anyway. But, being dried up because I walked away from God, and being dried up because God’s hand is holding back the flow even while I walk toward Him, are two entirely different things.
You see, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years because of disobedience. I’ve known that kind of dried up ground. (Not 40 years’ worth, thank goodness.) Crossing the Jordan River was different. There, they were exactly where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what they were supposed to do. They weren’t in sin. They weren’t walking away from God. The Israelites were walking in obedience. AND BECAUSE OF THAT, the Lord dried up the river until they had crossed over.
I must walk through some circumstances or seasons with Jesus WITHOUT THE FLOW OF THE RIVER, but on DRIED UP GROUND, simply in obedience; simply in pursuit of God Himself.
“He did this so all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24
So I’ll know Him, love Him, revere Him more.
It’s lovely to know and love God when the river is flowing. It is something more to also know Him on dried up ground — and through to the other side.
I wonder if anyone else, like me, has found themselves on dried up ground EVEN WHILE pursuing Jesus, serving Him, practicing spiritual disciplines that normally would lead to a rich experience of feeling connected to God — a river of “spiritual flow.” And perhaps when it began to feel instead like dried up ground, we let go of some spiritual practices. I mean, they stopped being “effective” anyway, right?
Well, I guess that depends on how we define effective.
If effective means I FEEL close to God (river flowing), then no. I guess spiritual disciplines aren’t always effective.
But if effective means I AM close to God (whether I feel like it or not), then like the Israelites, I can be on dried up ground right in the middle of His presence and His will.
Okay, okay — dried up ground, flowing river.. who even cares!? Does it really even matter!?
Well, maybe not. But, do I worship HIM or the flow? Do I know and trust Him in the flow and on dried up ground?
Because THAT MATTERS.
I invite you to return to the riverbed. And if you find it all dried up, don’t be discouraged. He is waiting for you there.