‘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 invests time in this place, something happens, and the desolate places take on a whole other meaning and function.
The next time 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. We would find that 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 sometimes struggle with fear of these desolate places. Sometimes the idea of being alone, where our thoughts can fully manifest seems overwhelming. But Jesus example shows us something truly beautiful about God. That in the places of silence which seem so threatening to us, He actually wants to meet with us and change them into places that bring life and beauty.
God is longing to meet with you. It takes practice to learn how to quiet the fear that says silence is not safe, but the desolate places are only empty until we partner with God to fill them. Take time in the quiet, in the stillness, and seek the heart of God. Let Him fill the places in your heart that have been empty. His word often talks of streams in the wilderness, and it’s in this place that so many don’t take the time to tread, that true intimacy and refreshing take place.