A River in My Wasteland

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)

You know how sometimes a word, scripture, or idea will follow you? Everywhere you look, everyone you talk to, the same thing comes up. It happened to me this week. Sometimes, I need God to give me quite a few nudges before I notice what He’s up to. This verse has been chasing me around town this week, from Instagram to a breakfast meeting to a random piece of paper I found at a friend’s home. When it came up in the sermon at my church this past weekend, I finally realized that I had been tracked down by this scripture and began to pray into it.

I spent the last two years of my life in a wilderness season, to be honest. I knew in my head that God loved me, and I knew He had a plan, but He was in the process of slowly stripping away my plans and uprooting my pride. I felt unseen and forgotten. I had days that I felt like I was wandering without a purpose. I think sometimes I forgot that in order to use me in a meaningful way, God must first change me in a meaningful way. God will only use us to the extent we are willing to be humbled. So up until 3 months ago, there I walked, in a wilderness.

We all have our wastelands, the parts of our hearts and life that we think are too far gone. They are the places that have dried up; nothing can grow there. Wastelands are just that: full of waste. They’re where we’ve dumped our messy situations, emotions, and past experiences. This desert is full of brokenness and dust and a thirst for God to move. The good in a wasteland or a wilderness is that they’re the places we accept what is always true: if God does not move, we are finished. When things go well, we begin to forget that the presence of God is what breathes any life into the landscapes of our world. Sometimes, we find ourselves in wildernesses solely because we need to remember who our God is and what He can do.

I couldn’t tell you how many nights I cried out to God in confusion and frustration, asking Him to move me forward. I wanted to get out of the wasteland and into a different place. I begged Him to show me a way out, but that didn’t seem to be His plan. So, after almost two years, I changed my prayer. (I find that prayer is usually about changing my mind, not God’s). I began to lean into my pain and confusion and ask what He wanted to change in me, not my circumstances.

Truth be told, I realized that the wilderness wasn’t a problem. God wanted me to walk with purpose through it, to begin to face the things I’d dumped there for years, and to come out a whole, healed woman. He had kept me in the wasteland, not because He was cruel, but because I needed to be there.

He also hadn’t brought me out of the wasteland because that’s not what this verse says. It doesn’t say He’ll deliver us from the wilderness. It says He’ll make us a path in the middle of it. It doesn’t say that He’ll help us avoid the wasteland, it says that He’ll create rivers in it. God doesn’t only see our desert. He sees potential for a river. He sees the potential for things to grow again in our driest corners, for things to be resurrected in the deadliest climates. There is no loose thread, no wastefulness in the Kingdom.

Are you ready for the best part?

But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

At the end of our desert season, I believe that we begin to grow beside the river He creates. We are nourished by what God has done in our lives, deeply rooted and confident in the very place that used to be our pain. We plant ourselves by the river because we have finally put our hope and trust into our God and not our season. And the next time a drought comes in, dry and hot, we continue to bear good fruit. We’ve learned the secret that God makes pathways. The wasteland cannot touch us anymore.


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