Gathering Together

 A Desert time or a Dry Season?

By Carol Doyel –

We often hear people talk about their “desert time” or they’ll say “I’m in a dry season”, often referring to both as one in the same.  So are they the same?  What does the Bible say about the desert and what is the difference between a desert time and dry season?

From my own personal experience, I had a desert time following a time I sensed the Lord whispering to me that I was going to be “in the desert for three years”.  I was thinking, oh boy here we go, three years in the desert.  What is God trying to tell me? And if it was a desert time, as we often define it, then how come those years were the sweetest and some of the best experiences I have ever had with the Lord?

Years of dying to self, of repentance, of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, that caused me to hunger for Him night and day. How could this time of fellowship, of revelation and heavenly provision be referred to as desert time, like the time that the Israelites wondered aimlessly in the desert?

In actuality, what I experienced was a time of refreshing, a quiet season, a time that I came to know that still small voice of the Lord, and to recognize His voice from the voice of man and my own voice. 

So does the desert time mean the same thing as a dry season?  No, and I think the following verses will show you the difference between time in the desert with the Lord and a dry season, which is brought on by our own actions.  Remember God is faithful, He will never forsake us.  A dry season is when we walk away from and cutoff our self off from the river of life. And when we don’t have water we get dry, parched, dehydrated, we can even die!  Due to our stepping out of the stream, away from fellowship, away from the Word of God, away from prayer,  away from the Lord; often to pursue our will over the will of God.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about my time in the desert was my crying out in the desert; it was a time that my soul cried out for the Lord…and He came! He is faithful to answer our cry.  Crying out often precedes our desert time because we become desperate, to the point of crying out.  And I believe we have to pass though the desert before we can enter the “promised land” as the Israelites did.  I know their complaining prolonged their desert time, but I believe the reasons the Lord took them the long way around and into the desert was purposeful and for their benefit, as our desert time is for us as well.

I had literally moved to a desert, the high desert of central Oregon in 2001.  It is there that I sensed the Lord telling me that I was going to be in the desert for three years.  I lived in central Oregon longer than three years, but for three years the Lord had me in the desert with Him.  A dry season is when we walk away from and cut our self off from the river of life. I will never forget the days that I walked so closely with the Lord that it seemed like He and I were the only ones that existed, often praying for hours, on my knees until I found it hard to get up, crying like a baby, wailing at times for my life, my husband, my family, for forgiveness and redemption. 

What seemed like days at a time in the desert with the Lord, at my “prayer bench” that I asked the Lord for as a special place in the woods to pray, I would go daily with my dog to sit and commune with the Lord as I looked at the majestic Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson and the dry canyon below. Often falling unto the ground praying and weeping, with my loyal dog trying to comfort me. But the Lord was my comforter, He was my husband, He was my all-in-all.

It’s when we are thirsty that we receive living water, “And they thirsted not when he led them through the desert; he caused water to flow out of the rock for them” (Isaiah 48:21). I realize he provided actual water for them so they wouldn’t die, and in our desert, when we thirst for Him, he is faithful to give us living water from whatever or whomever He chooses to use. It may seem odd to receive water from a rock, just as the people that God uses sometimes can seem odd. 

And while in the desert the Lord will show us the way, as Exodus 13:21 refers to when the Lord went before the Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He led the way and met them and provided for their every need in the desert.  He sustained them in the desert, as He did me.  I fed on His manna in the desert, John talks about heavenly manna in John 6:31, “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written.”  Was John trying to assure his contemporaries that their fathers really did eat manna in the desert so as to remember God’s goodness, they had indeed had eaten the miraculous food that the Lord provided daily? Just as the food that was miraculously provided by the hand of God during the years that we lived in the high desert of central Oregon. God met all of our needs. 

God is faithful and He will “keep” us in our desert time for as long as we need to be there. For some, that may be for three years, for others it may be for forty. And sometimes we need to remind ourselves and others that “our fathers (or we) did eat manna in the desert” so as not to forget the goodness of God or in whose strength we were sustained, living in our own limited strength again.

It is in our desert time that God often manifests Himself more than any other time in our life, so as to let us know that He is with us!  It’s His “manifest presence” that we experience that makes the desert time so special, that makes us long for Him in the ebb and flow of what is considered our walk with the Lord following our desert time.

And it is in the desert that “The Lord will comfort His people in waste places, and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD, joy and gladness shall be found there, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (Isaiah 51:3), surely the desert cannot be all that bad of a place! 

We also know that Jesus loved to go into the desert as it is written in Mathew 24:26, “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it or not.”  Wow-believe it or not, those times in the desert with the Lord is time spent in the “secret place” with the Father, the same place Jesus would go to be with the Father. 

So take time to go to the desert so that during the “dry times” of your life you’ll remember the goodness of God, and  The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

May you be so filled with the living water that you become like a well watered garden, for those of us who garden especially in a dryer climate as I have, you know that you must start watering weeks before you ever plant the first seed so the soil is rich and moist so the seed cannot be easily plucked up, dried out, choked, and can even withstand dry times!

So, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while…  (Mark 6:31-32). 

Carol Doyel is the founder and editor-in-chief for a woman’s online magazine, LivingBetterat50+, http://www.livingbetterat50.com/.