Months before COVID-19 began its spread around the globe, I was contemplating a decision I didn’t want to make. No path was easy, no option desirable. The aftershocks have been too painful to write about, too tender to share.
Some days I’ve woken in a fog, wondering How did I get here?—only to slip into bed that night with more questions, more pain, more tears, and no easy answers in sight. Places that once blossomed with fruit now appear a barren wasteland, scorched beyond recognition. Choices that once seemed easy now feel complicated and the path ahead uncertain.
In this wandering wasteland, I’ve clung to Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
We often assume the Lord only leads us to green pastures, settling us beside still waters. While a peaceful place of rest is certainly his ultimate destination, at times we travel through scorched places, where fiery trials and destructive storms threaten to overwhelm and consume (Isa. 43:2). These times of testing and trials are uniquely painful—only the Lord can continually walk with us, strengthen us, and meet us with his unfailing compassion.
We cannot know the way or the why, but we know the One we follow.
Thankfully, he meets our powerlessness with the promise of his presence: “I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2). Though the path may be unclear and the way precarious, we have the one guide who can lead us. We cannot know the way or the why, but we know the One we follow.
We tend to believe contentment blooms once we’ve reached those much-longed-for green pastures. However, this passage directs us to a different promise of blessing: God satisfies our desire within the scorched places, reminding us that perfect circumstances cannot fulfill our desires—only he can.
His presence is an overwhelming fullness of joy—enough to make scorched places brim with satisfaction (Ps. 16:11). He meets our deepest longings by removing outward comforts so we may drink more deeply of our ultimate comfort.
He meets our deepest longings by removing outward comforts so we may drink more deeply of our ultimate comfort.
God strengthens us within the suffering, not by removing the trial but by being an ever-present help within it. Days when I feel all my strength is gone, his strength proves sufficient. When I feel parched and dry, his waters overflow.
Sleepless nights, difficult conversations, and unexpected waves of grief have left me weary and worn. I’ve felt like I have nothing to offer. Perhaps he leads us through the scorched places just so we have nothing else to rely on but himself. When the landscape is barren, we must cry to him for bread. And, mercy of mercies, he does not leave us hungry.
His Word is a feast that imbues strength in the struggle so we may bear all things, hope all things, and endure all things. We sing with the psalmist, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Ps. 119:50).
Perhaps the most significant surprise comes at the end of this passage: “You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isa. 58:11). In our scorched places, we don’t just survive—God makes us a spring that overflows. Not only are we refreshed, but he allows us opportunities to refresh others.
This year has left most of us weary and worn, traveling through hardships and loss. Isaiah 58:11 is a needed word of hope: in the midst of our scorched places, he alone satisfies, strengthens, and refreshes us.