I love the idea of being led by the Spirit into green pastures and quiet waters. These are moments when I experience God's presence and favor. Sometimes these moments are repeated day after day, becoming seasons of rest and fresh revelation from the Lord. I know Who is in control and I'm confident that He is taking care of every need. In a sense, I'm being pampered.
Yet what about the times when the Good Shepherd leads us into desert places? Those dry and lonely places where He seems distant and unconcerned? This often happens during periods of transition. Could God be preparing me for something, slowly and patiently working on my character and strengthening my ability to resist temptation? Is He possibly moving me into a new area of ministry and greater influence?
In preparation times the fundamental need is for our resistance to be built up. Our ability to resist and overcome evil is connected to our capacity to do good. And so Jesus was "led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." - Matthew 4:1
Forty days of being led by the Spirit. Forty days of temptation. My common perception has been that the temptation occurred strictly at the end of the 40 days. But Luke's gospel states that Jesus was tempted for forty days (Lk 4:1). One trial after another, one long season of dryness and difficulty. Ever feel this way? I have. Could it be that this is no accident? What if God has designed this season for a purpose, specifically for your long-term benefit and growth?
I confess, sometimes I need a change of perspective before I can truly learn to cooperate with God in the desert places. Rather than seeing my dilemma as a form of punishment, I've needed to embrace it as His provision. Don't get me wrong. I'll take the green pastures and quiet waters any day. But I'm learning to trust God's leading and purpose in the desert places as well.