Being an Oasis of Hope in a Desert of Despair x

Some people see a problem in every opportunity, while others see an opportunity in every problem. This is most likely attributable to an individual’s temperament, experience and training. With respect to the last item on the list there is great hope for those who feel like they are locked in the melancholy mindset of pessimism.

We are born with our temperament, so we’re stuck with it. We can’t change our experiences. They are what they are, because that water has passed under the bridge. But we can learn from our experiences. And, most importantly, we can allow God to shape our thinking so that we develop new strategies for approaching life with enthusiasm.

This is essential for our well-being, too. Attitude more than aptitude determines the altitude to which we will soar in life. It’s true! Our outlook regarding life’s opportunities and challenges very often plays a huge part in the outcomes.

This seems to be one of the main messages of the book of Revelation. God does not want His people to despair! He wants them to live victoriously, in spite of their bleak circumstances. Living victoriously is encouraged on nine separate occasions in Revelation. There is a message here:

In the midst of a desert of despair it is possible to dwell securely in an oasis of hope!

Looking candidly at these matters is not intended to come across as some sort of spiritual rah-rah rally, either. While we need to think about these things for our own spiritual well being, we also need to think about them in light of what God has called us to be and do in the lives of others. We are to be a source of encouragement! If the song that is constantly on our lips is, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” it will be very difficult for us to be a blessing in the lives of others. Think of it: Eeyore will never be a motivational speaker!

I was once visiting with a friend in his office. He owned his business and that meant in addition to being the custodian he was also his own customer relations manager. The phone rang and he spent the next few minutes dealing with what seemed to me to be a cantankerous client. He was gracious, but no push over. It seemed like things were amicably resolved and I asked him if this was the case when he finished the call. He said that it was for the time being. He added that it was just a matter of time before something else would have to be resolved. He then said that this particular client was the kind of person who could brighten the room, just by leaving. Ouch!

It’s a challenge, isn’t it?

Sometimes, the only thing that keeps us from enjoying life and being a blessing to others along the way is how we view things that happen from day-to-day…

One family’s journey brings this reality to light. We are introduced to their pilgrimage in the following text:

1In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man's name was Elimelek, his wife's name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.” —Ruth 1:1-2

When we ponder this family’s plight (Ruth 1:3-2:2), we realize they are being confronted with an unbelievable number of different challenges. Any one of them could lead to despair. The combination of all of them might be described as a vast desert of despair. Their journey was a difficult one. Think of what this family was facing:

– Moral decline in their homeland

– Economic downturn

– Separation anxiety

– Culture shock

– Compounded grief and sorrow

– Internal conflict

– Family conflict

– Disappointment with God

– Financial destitution

In spite of these realities, when we look at Elimelek’s family from another point-of-view we can catch glimpses of an oasis of hope amidst a desert of despair. The reason for this is simple—the hand of God is so obviously present in the lives of Naomi and Ruth.

Looking at their journey from this point-of-view, we are impressed with another combination of factors all deriving from God’s providential power. There are many things that could be considered. My sense is that God’s providence is clearly seen in the following areas:

(1) Spiritual discipline exercised

(2) Temporal refuge provided

(3) Spiritual renewal experienced

(4) Physical needs supplied

(5) Spiritual significance realized

(6) Personal peace restored

So much could be said about each of these. One thing stands out: God’s providence seems to have turned what was a vast desert of despair into a peaceful oasis of hope. For now, I’m wondering what life-lessons we can gain from looking in on this oasis of hope. There are many, to be sure.

First, we should anchor our thoughts to God and dwell on hope!

– Think like an editor and look at the “space” God allows each point-of-view to occupy. Not much space is given to the “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” mentality, is there?

– Here’s a question for each of us to consider: How much “space” are we allowing negative thoughts to occupy in our minds?

– Think about this in relation to Philippians 4:4-8, “4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Second, we should keep our hearts in tune with the will of God!

– Though the world clamors about us, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from God.

– How much time / thought do we give to God each day?

– I’ve always found the Psalms help me tune my heart to God. One that I keep returning to is Psalm 62. Here we read:

1Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.

2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

3 How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

4 Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.

6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

9 Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.

10 Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

11 One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
"Power belongs to you, God,

12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love";
and, "You reward everyone
according to what they have done."

Third, we should trust God’s plan for our lives and experience the peace which comes from walking with Him!

– Boat loads of passages seem to under gird this observation. My all-time favorite remains Proverbs 3:5-6, “5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

– Simple faith leads to great service. So, continue to trust in God, even if you’ve got sand in your eyes.

– Small things can be big deal in God’s service. So, continue to serve, even when it seems like you’ve only got a thimble to move a sand dune. Remember: Little is much when God is in it!

So, then, if we…

(1) Anchor our thoughts to God, dwelling on hope;

(2) Keep our hearts in tune with the will of God; and

(3) Trust God’s plan for our lives and experience His peace!

Then – Each of our lives will be an oasis of hope amidst a desert of despair.

And – We will be able to enjoy life and be a blessing to others along the way.

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Following Jesus, Life, Preaching Notes, Religion, Spirituality & Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Being an Oasis of Hope in a Desert of Despair x

  1. Rachel says:

    God bless you for sharing these wonderful thoughts of encouragement. I have been in the desert this week and somewhat “parched”, so the comforting oasis of the words God has given you to share have given me the spiritual boost that I needed for today. I find the words of Psalms to be so encouraging and powerful as well, and in particular, Psalm 3, which is one my favorite. Have a great day!

  2. Greg England says:

    Great thoughts! Often, what you’ve written is better preached than lived because we tend to focus far too much on our circumstances over our Savior! This may sound simplistically stupid, but I am able to live this out better when I stay more faithful in the Word each day. Though I am a preacher, I don’t always pull that off as easily as one might think I would. I can be just as distracted as the next guy.
    Having a sense of humor that can be somewhat sarcastic, I have to work at this and your words today are a good reminder.

  3. Glad you were able to find some refreshing thought here today, Rachel. Psalm 3, now that's a good one! Here's how the "The Message" renders the first two verses:

    1-2 God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms,
    Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery:
    "Hah! No help for him from God!"

    The remainder of the Psalm is:

    3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides;
    You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
    With all my might I shout up to God,
    His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

    5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep.
    Then I'm up again—rested, tall and steady,
    Fearless before the enemy mobs
    Coming at me from all sides.

    7 Up, God! My God, help me!
    Slap their faces,
    First this cheek, then the other,
    Your fist hard in their teeth!

    8 Real help comes from God.
    Your blessing clothes your people!

    God bless you, sis!

  4. Yes, Greg. You are so correct about the challenge of abiding in the Word each day. Thanks for your insightful comments, brother!

  5. Joanne says:

    I live in Richmond. My son, Anthony is at Tamminy right now. He is watching something he has never seen before and says the experience has touched him in a way as you describe God is his salvation. Prior to his trip he had trouble praying; but loved singing praise to God. I will be interested in seeing if this has changed. God bless all of you. I am learning intercessary prayer. It is so intense.

  6. Bill says:

    Joanne,

    Glad you stopped by and shared this news about your son, Anthony. Please do let us know how the trip impacts his life. Also, we would love for you tell us more about what you are learning with respect to intercessary prayer.

    God bless,
    -bill

  7. Jim Martin says:

    Bill,
    A very good post and one I needed to hear today. Thanks!

  8. preacherman says:

    Great thoughts.
    I appreaciate your comments.
    As minister I’ve found it easy if we aren’t careful to end up in the desert. We face conflicts with member, elders not understanding their roles as shepherds, other stresses and if we aren’t careful…I have found scripture of course helpful. Reading the world daily, not just preparing for sermon, but personal study. Prayer…and fellow ministers that you can lean on during times of oasis. I thank God that his is the living water for those who thirst. Let us as His people, especially ministers thirst after the living water to help us survive during time of what see despair. God bless you. I enjoy reading your blog.

  9. Joanne Newhouse says:

    I know it has taken me a long time to respond to my son, Anthony, mucked houses and then stayed at Taminey Oaks(sorry for spelling) Church of Christ. They were so gracious. My son was sixteen, just turned seventeen. He came back with such a different perspective on life. He said how amazed he was to see such destruction so long after the fact. Also, it made him realize how quickly it all could be taken away. His comment was, “Our lives are filled with just stuff. But, it can all be gone in a short time. We are very reliant on our stuff.” They peeled a dog off a couch that had been dead for quite some time. His youth minister had to finally tell Anthony to go to the van and rest by Thursday. So he went into the garage and worked. He felt as though he was so moved to give all of himself for these people, in the name of God. He could not stop the time they were at the houses, except at lunch. He wanted to give to those families, some semblence of their house and his work. My husband lost his job a few weeks ago. My son has been so mature about it. We have been praying. He was not a prayer before. It has been humbling, but a huge blessing watching such growth in the Lord. Thank you for letting me ramble. I love the Lord, so.

    Joanne

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