Until about 10 minutes ago, I had no idea which word for wilderness I was going to write about. To be honest, between work, school, and the general craziness that comes with being a living, breathing human adult, I didn’t know if I would be able to post anything at all anytime soon.
But let me just say, the Lord truly is an eleventh hour God—showing up in ways (and often when) I least expect Him to. That might not rattle the cages of you spontaneous, go-with-the-flow types, but if you know anything about me, you know that I’m a planner. My lists have lists, and I make lists for everything.
Confession: I have the next 2 months of my life scheduled out in embarrassingly fine detail. That’s a time-management skill though, right?
So staring down a list (case in point) of 8 possible directions to go with this series left me feeling more or less like a deer in the headlights. As I was looking over the other words I could write about, however, there was one that stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Maybe because it’s the one that speaks the most to my present situation.
The word is tsivah. (Or צִיָּה for you Hebrew scholars out there.)
With a variety of meanings, all synonymous with “parched,” like “dry,” “barren,” and “drought,” this is the one word for wilderness that makes me really, really thirsty. And to add insult to injury, it’s pronounced “see-YAH”—which is exactly what I’d say if you told me that you wanted to take a trip there.
No thanks. You have fun in that dry, barren wasteland. I’ll be over here by the pool with my big ‘ole glass of iced tea.
But something in the definition of tsivah really caught my attention. (In my last post, I mentioned my deep [and completely rational] love for Blue Letter Bible’s lexicon.) As I read on, I was surprised to find that this word is also translated as “solitary place.”
“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” -Isaiah 35:1
Side note: “Them” that Isaiah is referring to in the verse above is Israel. (Namely the Jewish people.) If you’re not already Jewish and you’ve made Jesus your Lord and Savior, you’re now a part of “them,” too. (Can I get 3 cheers for adoption?)
What I see in the words of Isaiah is the beauty that comes out of the struggle. The children of Israel had been going through a never ending cycle of deliverance, sin, bondage, and deliverance for a very long time. Needless to say, that can make for a frustrating existence, not to mention an isolating one.
If you’ve walked through any measure of difficulty in your life, you—like me—have probably been tempted to believe the lie that you’re walking it alone. (And if you’re anything like me, you’ve been a sucker more times than you care to admit, believing the lie over and over again.) Even when faced with the truth that you’re not alone, however, that feeling of isolation can be a difficult one to shake.
Sometimes that feeling of loneliness can be so strong it’s tangible—wrapping around your heart and wringing out all your hope, joy, and peace, then dragging you down to a place that you never wanted to go. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.
As an introvert, I physically need to be alone from time to time to recharge. Give me a good book, and I will happily camp out on my sofa all day long with my favorite blanket and read. (Just don’t forget to feed me.) But I’ve also been in a near-constant battle with depression since I was 10 years old, and depression thrives on isolation. And so does addiction. And anxiety. Why?
Because God didn’t create us to be alone!
Even the most introverted person in the world gets antsy when left alone for too long. Too much solitude is uncomfortable for anyone, and this is a good thing. We were never meant to live in that place.
In Isaiah 7, we read that the dry, parched wasteland that the people of God had called home for so long was about to go through a radical transformation—becoming a lush, tropical paradise. It would be beautiful, habitable, and unrecognizable.
“And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” -Isaiah 35:7
This is such an incredible illustration that these dry, barren, solitary places aren’t meant to be where you or I make our home. We’re just passing through them, and one day “the desert will rejoice” and we will see why we needed to travel down that path. Go through that experience. Face that failure.
The wilderness is often a place of struggle and tremendous hardship. But more than that, it’s a place of preparation. Sometimes we enter this place of solitude by choice. But more often than not we don’t. Regardless of how we get there, however, God will always prove Himself to be faithful, leading us out of those dry, barren places and into the next seasons of our lives as we continue to seek Him.
“He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in.” -Psalm 107-35-36