‘Desolate’ is a pretty intense word. It conjures up images of vast empty and abandoned spaces, or people who have lost everything close to them, left to wander life in isolation.
But like many things, God views desolate places and people a little differently.
Right after Jesus rose from His baptism and heard the audible voice of God exclaiming His love for His son, “the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). Jesus was ‘driven’ into the place of desolation. Left to be tempted and surrounded by wild beasts. The place of quiet and solitude is most often the place where our hidden fears and doubts surround us, stretching from their long imprisonment behind the distractions of life. But when Jesus leaves, something happens, and the desolate places take on a whole other meaning and function.
The next times we hear about these places, it says,“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). The desolate places no longer hold the same power they once did. Where once He was surrounded by beasts and the very Devil himself, now the desolate place has become the place where He hears the Father’s voice. He goes by choice now, no longer driven, but drawn.
In Mark 1:45, “Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” Places that were once feared and avoided became hubs of the presence of God and the impartation of wisdom. The place of silence is filled not by the fears and doubts of life, but by the voice of God.
If we could set aside time in our lives, not for intensive bible study, nor for pouring out our petitions to God, but to sit. To listen. To find rest and safety in the desert. Maybe in that place of quiet, He is still speaking. Still standing on the nearby hill, offering life, wisdom, and questions that change our lives far more than answers do.
I still fear these desolate places. I avoid them unless I am driven to them, and even when I am forced to visit them by circumstances, I most often don’t recognize His presence there.
My desolate places comes in the form of 3 AM twin feeding times and 6:30 AM alarms calling me to get ready for work. I’m forced to these places daily. In my sleepless stupor, I feel no peace. I have no positive emotions. And I miss His hand, waving in front of my face, ready to touch the places that need His life.
I go to desolate places unwillingly, and I miss my God who is right there with me.
Maybe tonight will be different.
And maybe one day, I will run to those desolate places with abandon, to sit in the hot sun and hear the voice that fills every desolate place with life.