The Desert Experience

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways." (Isaiah 55:8-9)


- It is imperative that every child of God should understand His ways.

- We think in straight lines and fixed points, and move in a consecutive manner, that is, from point to point (we start and finish a book; we look forward to something, and look back on something; we measure progress by time spent or goods produced; when we travel, we leave a departure point and arrive at a destination point, etc.).

- God doesn’t think in straight lines, He thinks in circles. He’s doing many things simultaneously, He’s at the beginning and the middle and the end of many things - all at the same time. Therefore, He doesn’t think of things in the context of time, He exists outside of time. Time is irrelevant to Him. He is not affected by time.

- God’s timelessness presents a very real problem for us. God may speak into our life today and we will assume that it’s going to happen today, or very soon. We will probably place it on a time line of some sort. But, God may be speaking to us from a point that is still far into our future. The reason is because He is not concerned with time, and this is why: God does not measure time; He measures growth! When God deals with us, His purpose is growth, maturity, and preparation. And, it always involves death to self! God will draw us into a desert experience with Him to give us the opportunity to grow (to die to self), to learn to trust Him or to gain more insight into His ways.

- And, because of the way we think, our first question is always "How long is this going to take?" We’re not having fun. Dying to self is never fun. But God won’t tell us how long it’s going to take, because He understands that if we know how long, we’ll just try to hold our breath until it’s over. He doesn’t want us to hold our breath. He wants us to die!

- Things don’t have to happen in real time or space to be reality to God. When He speaks, it is a reality. To Him, there’s no difference between the two. So, when God speaks something into your life, it is a reality. It’s already happened. It’s just that there is a process of time required for it to manifest. But, this process of time to us is actually a process of growth to God.

- For us the practical result of all this is that God has spoken words into our lives (even though we must be careful and know, what was spoken by God, and what wasn’t). And because of this, we know He has wonderful plans for us, and that excites us. We have aspirations for God. We want to do all those great things He’s spoken into us. But, many times what we really experience is great frustration, because those things He’s spoken aren’t happening yet! When you’re frustrated, know that God loves frustrated people. He knows you’re frustrated because you care. Also know that the reason they may not be happening yet is that God is still measuring growth, not time.

- In our relationship with God, His purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son. And, He’s content to take as much time as necessary. We, on the other hand, want everything to happen now, without suffering, pain, or sacrifice on our part. And God’s only response to that is - too bad. Adjust your thinking. I’m doing this my way.

- When God is dealing with us, we must learn the value of doing nothing. This seems to be a contradiction; but most everything we do with God (if we do it right) is a contradiction to us (see "How To Know It’s God"). Man was created on the sixth day and his first full day with God was the Sabbath. That’s where we started, and that’s where God wants us to stay. We have to learn the value of doing nothing before God. That’s why quiet time with God is so great - you don’t have to do anything. Just hang out with God. You don’t have to fast for three days to get His attention, or recite long prayers to impress Him. Just rest quietly before His presence and wait for Him. If He doesn’t speak immediately, He will eventually. But, you do have to learn to wait. It’s a matter of respect and submission on your part. God does not act according to your time, He acts according to His will. Anytime a believer decides to press in to God and really get to know Him, one of the first things God will teach him is His Sovereignty! God moves in His time and acts according to His ways. Religion teaches that man is the creator and God is what they created. They expect Him to do what they say, when they say it. Of course, He doesn’t. But they’re too stupid and bound up in their own deception to notice.

- Also, God operates on a different noise level than we do. When we cry out to Him, He whispers back to us. God wants us to learn to be quiet, even when everything around us is in turmoil. Psalm 46 starts out with an earthquake and a tidal wave and ends with God telling us to "be quiet and rest assured that I am God (and everything is under control, regardless of what you see or hear)". But know this, when you learn how to rest in God, you’ll be accused of not caring about what’s going on around you. In this world, anxiety and hand wringing is the universal sign that you really care (that, and whether or not you’re wearing the appropriate color ribbon or symbol on your lapel). However, in the Kingdom of God, anxiety is only proof that you’re dumb. After all, you’re supposed to be having a relationship with the Prince of Peace.

- God delights in drawing us into times of intimacy with Him. Later in this paper we will see just how He does that. In each cycle of intimacy there are two specific points we must be able to recognize. The first is submission and the second is obedience. In order for us to benefit from being in God’s presence, we must first acknowledge Who He is in submission, and then be ready to obey. Then, in that place, He can touch us and we can be changed. Know that God loves to touch His children in this way, just to be able to watch them respond to Him. (It’s much the same as when we’re holding a small child and want to tickle them just to see them wriggle - I know, wiggle is a word too. But, wriggle is also correct and I like it better. Look it up.)

The Desert Experience

God works in us from two different levels: open manifestations and hiddenness. God loves to manifest Himself, and when He does, He’s blessing you. But, that’s not all there is to God. When He’s hidden from you, He’s building something inside of you, and that’s even better! So, sometimes God is hidden, which can be a frightening thing (Psalm 104:29), but we need to know that He likes to hide (Isaiah 45:15).

The great thing about God when He hides Himself is that He hides right beside us. He hides in plain sight - training us how to see Him. It’s like playing hide-and-seek with your children. You always leave a small piece of yourself in view, so they won’t be afraid, and so they can find you. You want them to find you, because you enjoy the look on their face so much when they do.

When God manifests Himself, the experience can be physical; it most certainly will be emotional. He’s touching our body and our soul. But, when He’s hidden, He’s reaching in to our spirit. When He’s hidden, we can’t see Him with our eyes or feel him with our emotions. And it’s at this time that He’s trying to teach us to see Him in our spirit man; so we can know that He’s still there. God desperately wants us to learn the difference - our body has to experience something physical and our soul has to feel emotion, but our spirit can believe and trust and rest, even when we can’t see or feel.

God loves to hide, because He wants to be our hiding place. He’ll take away the external things we tend to want to trust in to give us something better. In manifestations, He’s working from the outside, in. In hiddenness, He’s working from the inside, out. That’s His preference - to work from the inside, out. He wants to touch your spirit. He wants to remove the visible to create new and greater vision inside of you.

There are many disillusioned people in the traditional church today crying out for manifestations. They’re frustrated because they don’t see them (not real ones anyway). God is hiding from them to give them something better. But they don’t understand His ways, so they just keep going from place to place looking for manifestations. They say, "I want to feel your presence, God" and "I want to see you work". But God says, "If you really believed in your spirit, you’d know I’m here, regardless of the circumstances." Those who are dominated by their soul have to feel and see, but the spirit man knows the truth and is content in it.

Does this mean manifestations are wrong or bad? Certainly not! Not real ones, anyway. What we have to understand is that manifestations are simply a part of the cycle God uses to draw us into intimacy with Him. People do experience His presence. Then He desires to take them into a deeper walk with Him. So, He hides from them to allow them to learn to see Him in the spirit. But, most people rebel against this cycle. They only want the manifestations. God wants them to move beyond that, but they simply want to stay where they are. In Matthew 17 Jesus was transfigured. His appearance changed and He stood on top of the mountain talking to Elijah and Moses. What a great manifestation! Peter was elated. And what did he want to do? Put up tents and stay there. But, God said, no. He had better things in store for Peter, deeper, more meaningful, life sustaining things.

Most people who experience some sort of manifestation of God’s presence experience a time of dryness soon afterward. And, it’s most probably a desert experience, where God is hidden from them. And most of them don’t know that it’s the best place to be. There are many people who have experienced times of manifestation at some point and they’re still chasing after manifestations. They’re still longing for the soulish experiences. But God wants them to find the depth of their spirit man instead. Many of them are so frustrated with the dryness and the futility of their search that they’ve wandered away from God altogether. They never understood that God wanted to take them deeper into the spirit.

Usually church leaders are blamed when the manifestations are gone. People don’t realize that if those manifestations were real, then men didn’t bring them and men didn’t take them away. Those who are wise will simply take the opportunity to go deeper into God. Those who aren’t will continue to seek the manifestations and in most cases allow their wrong desires to take them into destructive liaisons with familiar spirits.

In this cycle, God uses manifestations to get your attention, to get you all excited about Him. Then, He takes the manifestations away and leads you into the wilderness, where there is absolutely nothing. Then, to make matters worse, He hides from you. And He does all this so He can give you something better! What a paradox this is!

But, if you’re struggling with this, look at Jesus. He’s our model. In Luke 3 He enjoys a visitation from the Father, in full, public view. The Holy Spirit descends bodily in the form of a dove, and the voice of God is heard by all present, saying, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him." Then, what’s the next thing that happens? Jesus is led of the Spirit into the wilderness, and for the next forty days God has His Son all to Himself. No distractions, no comfort, nothing, just Jesus and the Father spending time together in the desert. Jesus in His humanity is dependent on the Father. The Father loves Him, sustains Him, strengthens Him, reveals Himself to Him, prepares Him, touches Him, and takes Him deeper into Himself.

And He wants to do the same with us. He’ll get our attention with manifestations, but then He wants to take us into the desert, where He has us all to Himself. In reality, He seduces us with manifestations, so He can lure us into the desert where we will be alone with Him. That’s when the real romance begins. The problem is that our body and soul both cry out in pain, they don’t want to lose the dominance they have. But, if we understand what God is doing, our spirit man gets excited - he’s ready to party on with God!

The abrupt change of scenery can be confusing and frightening, as well. At one point we’re in the midst of manifestations (it’s like being on the beach in Hawaii, sitting under a coconut tree with a cool drink in your hand). Then, all of a sudden God is hidden (now you’re in a strange wilderness, it’s hot and dry and you’re thirsty and hungry and there’s nothing in sight). It’s uncomfortable, you don’t like it there, so you start chasing around, looking for Hawaii again - chasing after manifestations.

The desert is a retreat into the heart of God. He’s drawn you into a place of intimacy so He can reveal Himself to you and teach you something about Himself. God can do anything He wants to do. He can fill your soul with manifestations and you’ll feel great. But, when He takes you into the desert, it’s so He can starve your soul into submission. He wants your spirit to rise up and dominate. In the desert, God wants to strip away everything that strengthens the soul. He wants to see your faith rise up so you’re no longer led by what you see or feel. Now you’re led by what you know in your spirit. God takes you into the desert to touch your spirit.

God takes you into the desert to be alone with you. He wants to take care of you. To prove to you that He can. This is personal. He wants to speak tenderly to you, He wants to give you your inheritance, and He wants to see you whole (Hosea 2:14-15). These things can only come out of a desert experience. When Israel got ready to leave Egypt, they took the riches of the Egyptian people with them. That was their manifestations. When they found themselves in their desert experience, the gold was useless. God took them to a place where they were alone with Him, a place where they had to learn to trust Him. But they were soulish. They refused to trust Him. They blew it. That’s why it took 40 years to reach the promised land. God had to wait for the next generation to grasp the significance of the desert experience. They learned to trust God and walk with Him. So, they came into Canaan out of the desert experience. In Luke 4, Jesus came out of His desert experience into a powerful, Holy Spirit-led ministry.

Here’s the end of the cycle - God finally gets you to the point where you no longer live in your soul, but in your spirit. In your spirit, you can see God, trust Him and rest in Him, no matter what circumstances you’re in. Your spirit is never moved. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re having a good day or a bad day; you’re resting in God. And the strength you have in your spirit allows you to enjoy the good day or endure the bad one; but in the end, it’s all the same to you - just another day in God.

And when the spirit man dominates, the will of God is all that matters. Your spirit man lives to please God. In Acts 21:10-14, the Holy Spirit through the prophet Agabus, warns Paul of the sufferings he will endure if he returns to Jerusalem. But Paul wasn’t moved. That is, his spirit man wasn’t moved, because he lived in the spirit. Paul had learned the lessons of his desert experiences with God; so, he knew how to enjoy blessings and endure hardships (Philippians 4:11-13). Only the spirit man can do that. The soulish man has to feel God when pressure comes, or he’ll fall apart.

Finally, in I John 2:20, 27 it says, "But you possess an inner anointing received from the Holy One, and because of this, you know the truth.....and this anointing you received from Him will remain in you for all time, so that you will not need for any man to teach you. But, this anointing will teach you everything you will ever need to know and will not lead you astray. Simply learn to live in what God Himself has taught you." When we respond to God in our desert experiences, He gives us this inner anointing. All our desert experiences go together to make up this anointing. Our spirit man is living in the continual presence of God. The revelation we receive from God during these times is the revelation that will sustain us in any circumstance for the rest of our lives.

When we’re in the desert with God, He gives us the water that makes up the well that has the capacity to gush out of our lives for all time. We, and those around us, have the opportunity to drink from this water any time we want or need to (see John 4:14). Your resident anointing is made up of all the truth God has deposited in your heart, because you responded to him in the wilderness with faith and obedience. These rivers of water will flow from your innermost being for the rest of your life (John 7:38). It’s always there, in an inexhaustible supply, waiting for the Holy Spirit to bring it to the surface.

So, don’t avoid the dry times. Look for them, ask for them, and then embrace them. We’re back to square one, here. This is not religion. This is not what you’re going to learn in the "tell me what I want to hear" traditional church. We’re talking about having a real, personal, experiential relationship with God, again. It’s the same message, just deeper in God. Stop yearning for manifestations. You don’t need to feel the presence of God all the time. You don’t need to see Him work all the time. You need to experience Him in the desert, as well, just you and God. Let Him love you. Let Him reveal Himself to you, seduce you and lead you out into the desert, where He can romance your spirit and kill your flesh!