Before I made the journey from California to New Jersey to begin my studies at Princeton Seminary, a friend gave me a gift, a framed photograph of the California desert. On the back of the frame, she gave me a Scripture verse. Perhaps it was from Isaiah 35….
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
The desert shall rejoice and blossom….
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
And streams in the desert.
I did not want to think about my journey to and through seminary being a journey to and through the wilderness. However, in some ways, my friend’s gift was prophetic.
Then, at the end of my three years in seminary, I got married. Billy and Ruth Graham gave us as a wedding gift a beautiful leather-bound copy of Mrs. Charles Cowman’s devotional book, Streams in the Desert. It has been a treasured volume ever since. Ruth wrote on the flyleaf something about finding joy in the ministry always. However, to be honest, I must admit that sometimes life in the ministry has been like a journey through the wilderness. Often I have identified with Moses leading the Israelites, though his task was far greater than mine has ever been or ever will be.
Isaiah warned God’s people that they were about to enter a desert time. We know it now as the Babylonian exile. However, Isaiah also promised the Jews that the desert would rejoice and blossom, waters would break forth in the wilderness. Great fruitfulness came out of the Israelites’ time in the desert under Moses, and again through the wilderness of the exile. So also it has been in my life, that in the desert times I have found water in the wilderness, and God has brought forth blossoms of joy.
Few if any of us like to think of spending any significant amount of time in the wilderness, at least not without the comforts of home. Nonetheless, often our spiritual journey through life is like a trip through the desert. When we are in the wilderness, it is good to remember that God will provide streams there that will cause blossoms to flower. The Lord will bring forth fruitfulness in the desert, and in his time, he will lead us out of the wilderness to our home with him.