The Back Side Of The Desert
Ruth Johnson
Life loses its meaning if we do not have a purpose beyond our every-day  responsibilities.

There has got to be more to being alive than getting up, going to work, coming home tired, watching a few hours of T.V., and dashing around to catch up on a sometimes overwhelming pile of stuff that must be accomplished on the weekends. No matter how successful we are or how much money we make, without a vision beyond the realities of day-to-day existence, we wander aimlessly (Proverbs 29:18). We have no fulfilling direction.

For this reason, God assures us that He has a plan for each of us: "I know the plans I have for you, for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11 NAS).

Once we understand the core reason why God gave us the gift of life, then there inevitably follows a season of waiting. How long that season will last is different for each person.

As we wait, the following promise is comforting to the soul and its message is clear. No matter how many years go by, there is an appointed time for each of us to enter into the fullness of what our life has been all about.

"The vision is yet for the appointed time. It hastens towards the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it. For it will certainly come. It will not delay" (Habakkuk 2:3 NAS).

During the gap between God revealing to us His plan and its coming to pass, many of us end up in the "back side of the desert" (Exodus 3:1 KJV), just like Moses. I have often considered how much Moses must have struggled, especially when I discovered in the Book of Acts that he knew what he was destined to do before he began his forty years in the desolate land of Midian.

"Moses saw an Egyptian mistreating a man of Israel. So he came to his defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian. Moses assumed his brothers would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn't" (Acts 7:25 NLT).

All those years, when Moses tended the flocks in the wilderness far from Egypt, surely he must have wrestled with what God had shown him, and how far, far away it all seemed to him.

In our own desert experience, we are confronted with the same struggle. When the vision seems painfully distant, we grapple with the gamut of emotions: hopeful anticipation and disheartening discouragement, unspeakable joy at the very thought of our destiny being fulfilled some day, and the temptation to just forget the whole thing and wish we had never embraced the God-inspired dream in the first place.

Yet, when we emerge from the years of waiting, we are not the same person. Attitudes, ideas and personal agendas die in that desert, where we come to the end of ourselves.

In that difficult place, hidden away and seemingly invisible in our giftings, God shapes us, changes us, humbles us, and molds us into a "vessel of honor" (2 Timothy 2:21 NAS) that is ready for the Master to use.

If we embrace whatever the Lord wants us to learn, when we finally walk out of the "back side of the desert," we emerge with a profoundly compelling revelation that whatever we do for the Lord cannot be about us, ever again.

This transformation in a human life and soul is dramatically evident in the life of Moses. I marvel at the difference between the confident Moses, who grew up among royalty in Egypt, and the shaken man who returned years later to lead the Israelites to freedom.

When he was young, "Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he became mighty in both speech and action" (Acts 7:22 NLT). Yet, by the time God called him out of the desert and into his destiny, he felt totally inadequate. This once articulate man, who demonstrated a swaggering arrogance in his younger days, did not even have the confidence to speak.

He was a broken man when he told the Lord, "Please, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant. For I am slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Exodus 4:10 NAS). This Moses, who was once so self-assured, was now "very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3 NAS).

When my years on the "back side of the desert" finally came to an end, I was not the same person who had begun my search for God's ultimate purpose for my life. Just like Moses, I was a broken vessel.

All of my life it was easy for me to sing and to sing quite well, including in front of other people.   I  never had to lean on the Lord to use my voice. My own ability was all that I depended on or needed.

Then, several years ago, my voice began to break down and one morning I found myself weeping as I stood in the middle of my living room, pleading with the Lord, "Please don't let the enemy devour my voice. Please, don't let him take away from me my ability to sing to You. O God, forgive me for all the years I never once acknowledged that it is only by your mercy and grace that I can even sing at all. Please give me another chance! Please give me back my voice and I will never take for granted again how desperately dependent I am on You for all that I am and for anything that I can do."

God did restore my voice, but it is not the same as when I was younger. There is a shaken confidence, just like happened to Moses.

Often, I am moved to tears that the Lord gave me back something that I love so dearly, which is to be able to sing to Him. I feel utterly humbled by an ever-present awareness that only with His help can I do anything of any value at all.

Now, after a long journey that spanned fifty years, I am living my dream. I am gratefully experiencing the reality of Proverbs 13:12 NLT: "When dreams come true, there is life and joy." 

The years took their toll on me, there is no doubt. I would much rather have been used in the fullness of my destiny as a younger woman. Here I am, fifty-eight, and I have just begun.

Yet, I can testify that God did keep His Word to me. He honored His promises, the same ones that He makes to each woman and man who is sincerely seeking His face, waiting, trusting, and longing for the fullness of His purposes for them to unfold.

"I will keep guiding you with My counsel, leading you to a glorious destiny" (Psalm 73:23-24 NLT). "I will be with you constantly until I have finished giving you everything I have promised" (Genesis 28:15 NLT).


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