Thriving in the Desert: How to Flourish During Frustrating Times


Can you relate to a season in life in which you’re merely surviving, rather than thriving? Contrary to what you might think, I’ve learned through the years that those are often the times that God wants to draw us close. 

My friend, Kris, was weary from all that she and her husband Robert had experienced over the past year. After Robert was involved in a car accident that left him in severe pain for several months, they experienced one hassle after another in getting the insurance companies to cooperate. Robert was permanently laid off from his job, so finances were tight and there seemed to be no help in sight. The days ahead looked bleak. 

“Where is God right now?” Kris blurted out to me in frustration one day.  “We’re calling on Him for help. It just seems like He’s forgotten about us.” 

I shared with Kris how I’ve learned through the years that God has a way of drawing us out to the desert of need (or should I say the desert of desperation?) in order to teach us some things about Himself. 

In the early years of my marriage, my husband and I didn’t have much money, so I learned to depend on God as my Provider and take Him at His Word when He says He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:19). 

When my daughter was a baby, she was hospitalized for three days while undergoing tests to determine if she had cancer or leukemia. During that time of fear and uncertainty, I had to look to God as my Source of Comfort and the only One who could provide peace “…that transcends all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).

And just recently­—as I  waited for God to move during a time in which my husband and I  seemed to be standing still financially, emotionally, and in ministry—I had to look to God to be my Future, my Hope and my Direction and trust Him when He says He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and give me hope and a future (see Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).  

God knows if I have everything I want, right when I want it, I will no longer need Him. And, I’m not truly desperate for Him. So sometimes He will do whatever it takes to draw me back to the place where I truly depend on Him. 

In the Old Testament book of Hosea, God told His prophet what He was going to do to draw the nation of Israel (His chosen people) back to His heart. His people had gone after other gods, and turned their backs on Him, like a wife who had betrayed and deserted her husband. God used an analogy of a lovesick husband leading his wife back to his heart when He told the prophet Hosea His strategy for making His people desperate for Him:  

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness [desert] and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor [Trouble] a door of hope. There she will respond [sing] as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt [bondage]. ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘you will call me “my husband”; you will no longer call me “my master”’ (Hosea 2:14-16 NIV).

I wonder, sometimes, if God doesn’t take that same strategy with us today. Could He be allowing us to go through a desert (in our marriage, our finances, our job, or our personal life) and even at times lead us there so He can “speak tenderly” to us and show us a new side of Himself?  Sometimes God allows us to go through certain deserts as consequences of our sin or some bad decisions we made along the way. But other times, I believe He will lead us through a desert because of how He wants us to experience Him there.   

What desert might God be allowing you to walk through right now so He can show you a new side of Himself? Could He be taking you through a desert in your marriage, so you will see Him as your “spiritual husband”? Could He be allowing you a trek through the wasteland of financial hardships so you will see Him as your Great Provider? Is He allowing you a journey through parched areas of loss so you will see Him as your Greatest Possession? 

To make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to see a new side of God and grow closer to Him through your circumstances, remember these three things when the winds of difficulty begin to blow your way: 

Seek God’s Favor—Ask God what side of Himself He wants you to see, what characteristic of His nature He’s waiting to reveal to you, what level of His love He’s wanting you to experience. To seek His favor is to say, “I want You to be pleased, Lord, in how I’m handling this. Grow me through this process—for your glory!” 

Surround Yourself with Support—None of us were intended to “go it alone.” Connect regularly with women in your church who support you in your faith and can encourage you and hold you accountable during the tough times. Having strong friends to lean on—and who can pray for you—will steer you in the right direction and keep you from becoming bitter. 

Sing­—regardless of your circumstances. In First Thessalonians 5:18 we’re told, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NASB). I’ve paraphrased that verse to read, “In all things, sing…” To sing in our suffering lifts our hearts and keeps us focused on the growth God wants to incorporate in our lives. 

God will, at times, do what it takes to draw us to His side so we will depend on Him more. My friends, Kris and Robert, are learning this, and are determined now more than ever to bloom amidst their burdens. Will you flourish in your desert, as well? 

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, and Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs. For more on her ministry, see her website:  


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