Deserts are harsh places. Survival is a daily struggle for plants, animals, and people alike. Deserts figure prominently in the Bible. Cast out of lush Eden, Adam and his descendants lived under God’s curse of “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18). The Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert. David hid from Saul, John the Baptist preached, and Jesus faced temptation—all in the desert.
The desert of Judah inspires the words we read in Psalm 63. The words of the opening verse resound with a profound sense of isolation and a deep longing for God. In that vast desert, the psalmist expresses his need for God’s closeness and provision. His physical thirst emphasizes his far greater spiritual thirst.
The season of Lent invites us to become desert sojourners—to slow down and survey the harsh world around us, sensing our own and others’ thirst. It invites us to recall Jesus’ desert wanderings—his first steps on the journey to the cross—and the oasis that his death opened for us all. We are urged to drink deeply at this oasis, finding rest and sustenance in God alone.
We can learn from the psalmist who seeks God earnestly. We are to seek God with deliberate seriousness and intent, not halfheartedly and distractedly as we sometimes do. Times in the desert may feel dry and bleak. But as the psalmist discovers, in the desert we realize our desperate need for God, which leads us to search for and encounter God in meaningful ways. Thorns and thistles can give way to an oasis of refreshment.
Lord, impress on me the need to seek you earnestly, and refresh me during these times. Amen.