It was nearing 100 degrees in the dry, arid heat of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. Our destination was Masada, an ancient fortress built by Herod the Great on top of a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. There is an old path that weaves back and forth leading to the top of Masada called the Snake Path. It literally looks like a snake slithering back and forth up the side of the mountain. This path has over 700 stone steps and is just over a mile long. I thought I was well prepared for lots of walking so when faced with the decision to hike the steep and narrow trail to the top or ride the gondola, I chose the Snake path. I probably should have taken the gondola.
About half way up I felt my legs weaken and the throb of an impending headache. There is no shade from the heat, and despite the 2 liters of water on my back I couldn’t quench my thirst. My thighs burned with every step and as others forged on ahead full of zeal, I thought “is it time to take a break yet?” I just wanted to rest.
Most of us have felt the desperation of being in the desert, even if we haven’t been in an actual desert. David’s words, in Psalm 63, echoed with my every heartbeat as I strained to take another step up that path. “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” David actually wrote this Psalm from the desert of Judah and looking around I could understand why. Difficult situations and the struggles we face in life, are much like being in a desert. They expose our weakness. They make us feel parched as if no water can satisfy the brokenness and thirst we are feeling.
The good news is that David knew that what his soul really longed for, was God. Even when our circumstances seem hopeless, or our pain feels intolerable, there is a God who loves us. A God that walks with us, and promises to quench our thirst, our real thirst.
Eventually, I made it to the top of the Snake Path. I repeated every Psalm I could think of in my head to keep my mind hopeful in the journey. While one friend encouraged me, another carried my back pack to lighten my load. At the top there was much rejoicing as each person reached the end of the journey.
God doesn’t promise us we won’t have troubles, but he does promise to walk with us on the way. Seek God in your deserts, focus on his word and promises to keep you steadfast on your journey. And let us also be a community of people that walk with one another, not just in the joys of life, but in the deserts and valleys as well.
Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and Earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.