I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
• Isaiah 41:18 •
Every step forward took us a half step back. Before us stretched an endless sea of sand, myriad dunes rising and falling against the blue of an early autumn sky. The sun hung bold and fierce and added to the illusion of desert solitude.
As my husband and I explored the otherworldly hills of Jockey’s Ridge, NC, it was easy to imagine we were miles from civilization. Strong winds whipped around us and I squinted to keep tiny granules of sand from stinging my eyes.
I made a 360-degree turn and searched for signs of the bustling seaside village of Nags Head that I knew to be beyond the dunes. From opposite sides, the Atlantic Ocean and the Roanoke Sound beckoned with promises of cool waters and endless recreational opportunities, but here we felt dwarfed by the mounds of nothingness. A complete lack of water, vegetation, or manmade structures.
What a barren place.
Oh, haven’t we been there! A place where our souls feel dry and parched. A place where every step forward is followed by a backward slide, leaving us weary and frustrated.
Our hearts search for signs of life and growth—a bit of green in a world of brown and gray. Our eyes grow weary as our gazes scan the horizon—looking, longing for a simple touch of color.
We wonder, is there purpose here? Is it possible to grow in this wasteland?
The Psalmist’s heart beat with the same questions as he placed his impoverished spirit before the Living God:
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
• Psalm 42:1-2 •
The next verses provide insight into his tattered world. He writes of his tears day and night, and of the ridicule of mockers. He remembers times of joyful worship when he would lead others in shouts of thanksgiving on the way to the house of God. He thinks of a rich, meaningful life, but in his present reality, those times seem lost forever.
And then verse five—words that shake me with their power. This writer in despair poses a profound question and makes a gutsy decision.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
• Psalm 42:5 •
Oh, how the first half of this verse reverberates through us! Why am I feeling this way? What is wrong with me?
We pause, startled by the psalmist’s next words: Put your hope in God.
But, wait. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t know what lies ahead. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him.
Can we trust before we know?
Is there genuine hope in this dry place?
There’s a fascinating component to the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge. The outer layers are covered by sunbaked, shifting sands. But just underneath the surface, tiny granules of sand retain moisture through the seasons. That unseen amount of water prevents the dunes from being dislocated by the relentless battering of high winds. In our Creator’s perfect design, an anchor is provided.
Hope lives in the deep places.
The day of our hike, my husband and I topped a dune, and our eyes widened at the bursts of color dotting the landscape. At the peak of an adjacent dune, a group gathered. Cheers and applause floated across the sea of sand as a woman, harnessed to a huge red and yellow kite, “flew” to the base of the dune.
We stared, mesmerized, as others were strapped to brilliant, colorful wings and in turn, surfed the air currents amidst screams of delight. They had discovered a joy-filled purpose for a dry, useless place.
They found a way to soar in the desert.
In spite of what we feel at any given moment, may we remember that at the foundation of our present circumstances, there is a never-ending source of deep and abiding hope.
Oh Father, how I long to trust You.
To praise You in times of darkness, when I don’t know every answer
or when the future is confusing and unclear.
This moment, I ask for strength to reach for You in the unknown.
I love you, Father, and I choose to lift Your Name in worship.
I want to soar in Your faithfulness!