Follow Jesus for any length of time and you will soon discover that He leads you through various seasons. He will lead you through seasons of growth in which you may experience either material or spiritual blessing or both simultaneously. He will lead you through seasons of sorrow through which you are taught to trust Him through trials and temptations as well as to grieve not as those who have no hope. He will lead you through seasons of vitality in which you are productive, fully in touch with the creative intelligence God has given you to glorify Him. During such times you may serve others energetically, marry and start a family, create a business or initiate some meaningful project.
Jesus will also lead you through seasons of pruning and even dryness. Whether it is the dark night of the soul, or a period of sustained, unnerving silence from God, these season will challenge your faith, try your soul and test your heart. Although unpleasant, at least pruning has as its goal a greater fruitfulness in the future. When you are pruned find comfort in texts such as Hebrews 12.11 which says,
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
So despite the pain caused by pruning we have God’s assurance that, in the end, it will have a point.
In comparison, seasons of dryness leave us clueless as to the purpose of God. They are to all human appearance, and there is no other way to say it than to be blunt: pointless. A sustained season of dryness in which God is unnervingly silent is one of, if the most difficult, tests of our fidelity to the God of covenant. There is, however, a ray of hope; a beam of light along which we can track the sovereign hand of God and be comforted.
Think of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was then taken to Egypt where he was wrongly accused of sexual assault, imprisoned and forgotten for nearly twenty years.
Think of Moses. He fled Egypt only to end up tending sheep in Midian for 40-years. Forty-years! Shepherding is not easy work and Moses was not a young man when he began his apprenticeship.
Think of Jeremiah. His 40-year ministry as a prophet is famous for its stunning lack of success. Largely ignored by his countrymen, when he was taken seriously he was falsely accused of treason, left for dead in a cistern, rescued by a Gentile; then taken by force to Egypt all the while telling his countrymen, “Don’t go to Egypt!” Each man lived through a season of dryness. What is remarkable is that while each man had people break faith with them, they each refused to break faith with God.
Inasmuch as the reason for their faithfulness may have more to do with the character and sovereignty of God, this much is also true: each man trusted God to lead them through their season of dryness without having any assurance the drought would end. Their hope was in God, not in the end of the drought. In this sense they exemplify the psalmist who, when peering up into the perilous mountains declared his hope was in the LORD who created the mountains, indeed who created the earth and all that is in it.
David declared the same when he wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want. . . . He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. . . .He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” It is during the season of dryness that our trust in future grace is given its severest test. It is when the ground of our soul is parched and hardened as tarmac we recall that the heart of faith is the determination to trust God in the present because of what He has already done for us in the past which then gives us hope He will provide for us in the future.
The dry season tests our resolve to thank God for giving us the ordinary means of what is needed to live each day: our daily bread in the form of food, clothing, shelter, health, and work. The dry season challenges us to look beyond the hills to see how God also provides for us our daily grace: salvation, the presence of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, faith, hope and love. While easy to ignore, we must never forget that all we have is a gift from God. His care extends into all areas of our need. Everything we need for life and godliness (a lifestyle of practicing what Jesus preaches) God has and will provide each and every day. The struggle on our end is to keep faith with Him because sometimes, from our side of eternity, God’s timing is a little off. His provision does not always arrive according to our timetable, as if He lived in a different time zone and has neglected to set His watch accordingly. It is then we must also learn to trust God for our daily guidance by asking Him to lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
What we often fail to realize is this: that when God chooses not to provide for a physical need (e.g., a prayer for healing is answered with a “No”) God then provides the grace, courage and inner resolve to carry on, to endure, to persevere and to keep faith regardless. Sometimes we must – make that – always we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And when that moment is realized; when the terrifyingly simple truth is revealed that God delivers us through the valley of the shadow rather than from the valley of the shadow we are confronted with a truly defining moment. Will we at that moment follow Jesus’ example and say, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” or not?
Will I, can I trust God when I do not understand why or what both the reason and the point is of the drought. Will I, can I trust God so completely that I will yield to Him and say as Jesus did, “Not my will, but Thy will be done”? Will I, can I choose to yield to the Master Potter or complain and remain in that state of complaint a lump of uncooperative, recalcitrant clay?
The heart of faith is the determination to trust God in the present because of what He has already done for us in the past which then gives us hope He will provide for us in the future.
In the nearly 40-years I have walked with Jesus, He has lead me through a variety of seasons, including several extended seasons of dry and arid silence. And this is what I have learned is best: Trust in His sovereign albeit unseen hand. He will not always keep silence. And do not neglect to pray, especially to pray then like this, “Our Father in heaven. . . .Give us this day our daily bread,. . . .” To pray like this is to ask also for our daily grace and our daily guidance. It is to trust that God will give us this day everything we need for this day. It is to trust in the LORD, our Father in heaven who knows what we need before we ask and is wise enough to give it us when He knows it is best for us to receive it.
In nearly 40-years of walking with Jesus here is something else I have learned: no drought lasts forever. The clouds of God’s gracious, life-giving rain are seeded with trust/obedience in His future grace.
You think about that.