This mouthful of a title came to mind when the leader of a writing group I was in recently published a book about sickness. I thought her book – and its companion title – offered some great insights into how people and their situations are perceived when they’re sick and how they wish people would really see them.
I had some similar thoughts about living through a desert experience, and had similar conversations with friends who had both been through their own desert journeys or watched loved ones walked that road. These are some of those thoughts from one side. I’ll visit the other tomorrow.
When you’re going through a desert time in your life: lean financial times, an unexpected health scare, the loss of a loved one, an overwhelming amount of stress – it can be anything – there are some things that you may wish those around you just knew without you having to say it out loud.
Sometimes I just need to be alone. This may be especially true for the introverted desert traveler – myself included – but when the situation around you is stormy and chaotic, it can be very helpful to have some quiet time to process the situation. Some friends and family find this disturbing. They want to help. They want to reach out. They don’t want to see you suffering or spiraling into a depression. But unless your desert is actually depression (and it’s very possible that it can become a symptom along the way), it’s okay to want some time alone, and to say that out loud. Quiet time allows you to reflect and plan; meditate and pray; breathe and regroup. If you have a friend in the desert and they ask for some space, be willing to give it to them. Don’t abandon them or become offended by their asking. They love you and appreciate your being there for them, but they need some time to process this on their own too.
Sometimes blessings will come that others won’t understand. Some of the hardest things to hear when we went through out desert times were people being upset about good things that happened to us – mainly because they didn’t have context. We went for twelve weeks without any income before my unemployment finally kicked in. When it did, there was some retroactive pay involved. When we received that money, one of the things we did was replace a piece of furniture that was a hand me down on its last legs. We got a very good deal, but some people seemed to be very offended at the idea that a family who was supposed to be short on cash had a new sofa. When my husband won the grand prize at a men’s retreat that allowed our frighteningly bald tires to be replaced, there were murmurs about where we got the money for such great tires if we weren’t working. You won’t always know how God is choosing to bless your friends who are walking in the desert times, but be sure to rejoice with them. Blessings don’t mean that they’re not also struggling, and those blessings are like little oases that keep people’s hope alive in the dry times.
Underneath the dust of the desert, I’m still me. If you’re in the desert for a long period of time, it becomes very easy for friend and family to see the circumstance more than they see you. I believe this stems from their care and compassion and a desire to see you in a better situation, but it can be so frustrating when all they want to talk about is the struggle you’re going through. For those friends, desert walkers are living that struggle in the most intimate way – day in and day out. As much as we love someone to talk with us to carry the burden, it’s also refreshing for someone to just talk to us like we’re not going through a big mess. Talk about hobbies, sports, movies – whatever you talked to us about before. We’re still interested in those things, and they can do a great deal to take our mind off the mess – if only for a moment.
Walking out of the desert doesn’t mean everything becomes ideal in an instant. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I can share. It’s an amazing, beautiful thing to come to the end of your desert journey and walk into the next land that the Lord has for you. But no matter what your journey was – and especially if that desert involved finances of any kind – there’s going to be a rebuilding period. If you’ve been grieving the loss of someone in your life, you need time to heal and begin to understand what living your life without that person in it now means. If you’re dealing with a health issue, you need to go through treatment and recovery, or learn what living with a chronic condition entails. If you’ve been in a financial desert, you have a list of things that you’ve been holding off purchasing that need replacing; have savings that need replenishing; need to re-establish what living on a real budget feels like; and maybe even have some small loans that you need to repay. The end of the desert is wonderful, but there are still some more steps until restoration is complete.
More than anything, time and patience and valuable friends in desert relationships. Be patient with one another and have an abundance of grace. You can never go wrong with grace.
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