by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld
Jesus often surprises us in times of desolation.
Desolation sometimes comes through external circumstances that others can see and validate. In the weeks leading up to and following my father’s death, I experienced grief, but also distress over ensuing family turmoil. The emptiness I experienced carved a crater of desolation in my heart.
There are times, however, when externally, life appears to be going our way, and others even envy our success. But in reality, the success does nothing to reach the empty pit in our hearts. Desolation of the soul is marked by a profound emptiness that can’t be cured by achievement or accolade. I once read an interview with an actress who won her first Oscar at a time when her marriage was quietly, privately crumbling. She had beauty, riches, and fame, but her heart was desolate.
Jesus knew desolation, but rather than resist it, He sought it out.
He withdrew to desolate places to pray. He preached and ministered in desolate places when the crowds became too overwhelming for Him in the cities. He invited His disciples to follow Him to desolate places at the height of their popularity. And He fed the thousands with loaves and fishes when they came to listen to Him in a place so desolate, the disciples couldn’t imagine where they would find food.
I’ve often rejected desolation in my life as a detour from God’s plan for me: a wrong turn, something to be ashamed of, hidden, or avoided. I don’t imagine the disciples were too excited to follow Jesus to desolation. These were men accustomed to the obscurity of fishing boats at sea and suddenly they were rock stars of the ancient world. Maybe a couple of them breathed relief at pulling back, but I bet more than one chafed at the notion of leaving the crowds at the height of their ministry.
God is unafraid of desolate places. In fact, He seeks it and invites us to join Him there.
It is where He feeds us. It’s where He multiplies what little we bring. It’s in desolation He reminds us that our value with Him doesn’t lie in what we accomplish but simply in being with Him. It’s in desolation that He weans us from the applause and approval of the crowd, teaching us to measure our lives more through our “To Love” list than our “To Do” list.
It’s in desolation that we remember our limitations, our fragility, and our child-like nature. Where we re-establish our complete dependence on Him. And it is there He supplies what we need from nothing. He takes the meager meals we’ve prepared for ourselves and demonstrates how, in His hands, this offering can serve thousands
Desolation is not a place to be endured, but a place of wonder: an opportunity to locate God’s secret workshop. A visit to desolation is where we discover what all the great biblical men and women have found when they entered their desolation – that He is God and there is no other.
God whispered a secret to us about desolation through the prophet Ezekiel and we can heed that whisper now. Is God calling you out to a desolate place, loved ones? Follow Him there and see what He is about.
And they will say, “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of oasis Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.” Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it. Ezekiel 36:35-36 ESV
About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.
Lori’s latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. The dialogues everyday Christians delay are often the very channels God wants to use to deepen relationships and transform lives. Through funny, vulnerable personal stories and sound biblical teaching, the principles here are guaranteed to increase the confidence and competence of Christians in discussing sensitive topics of every kind.
Join the conversation: What has God taught you in a place of desolation?