A Dry and Dusty Land
In previous posts, I’ve shared about our adventures in the mud here in the mountains of Honduras. Driving 5,000 foot mountain roads that are nothing but hills, valleys, and curves, in the mud, is not the most fun thing I get to do in Honduras. Mudding is much more fun when the worst thing that can happen is getting your truck stuck. On these roads getting the truck stuck is actually the best of the possible bad outcomes.
People often ask us if we have four seasons as most of the U.S. experiences to lesser or greater degrees. In the western mountains of Honduras we only have two seasons, rainy season, also known as mud season, and dry season, also known as dust season. Dry season is summer and rainy season is winter. There is no fall and not much of a spring. Rainy season lasts from May through November and dust season lasts from December until April, more or less.
March and April are the peak of dry season\summer and also the hottest time of the year. During this time the leaves dry out and fall off the trees. For about three or four days there is a slight appearance of fall colors before all of the leaves fall off and the mountains turn brown and barren. There is a short period of time between the two seasons that is sort of like spring. During this time the rains start increasing causing everything to green up but the temperature decreases continually until the next summer arrives.
This summer has been exceptionally dry, and very recently, exceptionally hot. The rains stopped last November, and except for one evening in February, and two days or so of unusual cold, fog and drizzle in March there has been no rainfall. We had a scare with a fairly large forest fire only about 10 miles away from our home in March and there have been a few other smaller forest fires more recently.
Both seasons have their blessings and challenges. When it comes to driving dust season is much easier and safer. Although I drove into a curve too fast one time and discovered just how slippery three to four inch thick dust can be. Fortunately no damage resulted to the truck during this learning experience. Nor are we limited in the places we can get to safely during dust season. On the other hand, it is quite ugly here during dust season. Except for the pine trees everything else is pretty much brown. A team member who visited us last August and then again recently commented that he had never been to another place in the world (he is a missions pastor who travels extensively) where there is such a pronounced difference between the two seasons as here.
Finally, after such a long, hot, and dry time clouds started building before lunch one day in early April. Then for a couple of hours that early afternoon we finally received some much needed rain. It was such a glorious rainfall! It wasn’t terribly heavy but it was steady. It was accompanied by a couple of loud claps of thunder. The smell of the rain, the cool breeze, and the break in the temperature for the rest of the day was so refreshing to our bodies.
As I was reflecting on that I thought about the dry times in our spiritual lives. Sometimes the dry times are of my own doing. Sometimes I am not a good steward of my time. Sometimes I choose to do other activities instead. Sometimes I develop a bad attitude about someone or something and allow that to have control of my thought life. When that happens I can’t hear the voice of God. Sometimes I allow busyness to interfere with my quiet time in prayer and Bible reading. All of these are my own doing and are causes of dry spiritual times.
It is good to be busy doing “good things” in ministry, serving others, etc. But, God also desires me to spend time in fellowship with Him. He created me, and you, first and foremost for this purpose. The only way we build and maintain relationships with people is to spend time with them. The same applies to building and maintaining a relationship with our heavenly Father-it takes time.
In all of this I am not implying that we should not do good works. The Bible teaches that God created good works for us to do and our good works are the primary way we practically live out our faith. James wrote that without good works our faith is dead. He challenged those who claimed to have faith but never did good works by arguing that faith is proven by our good works.
Sometimes the dry times in our spiritual lives are ordained by God himself. If we live long enough we will have all manner of hardships in this life. Sometimes we can feel God’s presence so strongly during times of suffering. At other times in our suffering it seems that He is far away. But God promised us in His word that He will never leave us or forsake us. He is always near to us. The story of Job is long and not exactly easy reading, but all of these experiences are wonderfully shown to us in Job’s life.
Sometimes there are long periods of time when we don’t hear God’s voice. During these times it is as if we are crossing a desert, or going along the road in Honduras in March, but God is still with us. God uses these times to test and grow our faith. Remember, biblical faith is defined as having hope in things that are unseen. Whatever it is that we can see and touch requires no faith because it is right there in front of us. It takes no faith for me to believe that Jean and I will be able to make it from San Pedro Sula to La Campa safely when our truck is running properly. But believing that this will happen when the transmission goes out on a remote road on a Sunday afternoon when nothing is open takes faith.
Our spiritual life requires great faith. We can’t see God right now. We can’t speak to Him face to face right now. And yet He exists. He reveals himself to us in nature, through the kindness and good works of others, and more importantly through the Bible. But not only does He reveal himself to us in these ways but He has actually sent His spirit, the Holy Spirit, to live within the hearts of those who have called upon and believed in Jesus Christ. And with the Holy Spirit living within us God has fulfilled His promise that He would never leave us or forsake us.
But even with the Holy Spirit we will still experience spiritually dry times so what do we do? I usually have to slow down, discipline my mind, and be still to break the spiritual drought. I have to then open my Bible and spend time reading God’s word. The Bible is not just another book. It is what God wants to say to us face to face but can’t because we chose sin, and thus rejected Him. Once that happened, since He is holy and just and can’t condone sin, He could no longer walk with us as He did with Adam and Eve in the very beginning. So He wrote us a letter. And He sent His son Jesus to pay the price of our sin. And then He sent the Holy Spirit to be with all who believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and call upon His name.
To sum it up, I have to practice the presence of God. I have to position myself so that He can speak to me, so that I can sense His presence, so that the Holy Spirit can speak to me. The God of the universe, who created me, and you, will not force me to spend time with Him. I owe all that I have and all that I am to Him, and yet, He will not force me to be in relationship to Him. It is the purpose for which He created me, and you, but He leaves the choice to spend time with Him to us.
Just as the rain after weeks and weeks and weeks of dry and dusty conditions refreshes the body, the presence of God refreshes the soul. If you’ve gotten too busy, slow down and be still, get into His presence and your soul will be refreshed. If you’re spending time in His presence but not hearing His voice persist in being in His presence. He has a plan for your good even in His silence. When He breaks the silence the spiritual rain that will fall will be so much more refreshing than the drought breaking storms that come to refresh the earth.
Greg, I love your essay on the Dry and Dusty Land, Why don’t you start writing a book and include these thoughts to teach and encourage others? Just begin by jotting down some random thoughts and you can flesh them out later when you have time. Maybe when you retire? haha
Years ago I wrote the following poem when our youngest son was working tarring roofs (!) during the heat of a steaming summer. I thought about it when I read your essay.
“The sun glared white with blist’ring heat,
The dust stayed gritty in my mouth,
The wind blew hot and humid,
Moving slowly from the south.
I tried to find a cooling place
But there simply was no way,
‘Til God sent down His gentle rain
And broke the fever of the day.”
I get enthusiastic and excited about your ministry when I read your letters.
Have a wonderful Spring.
Janeece and Ed
Hello Janeece, thank you for your encouraging messages, and for sharing your poetry. I don’t fancy myself as much of a writer, but I do enjoy writing the monthly articles. You are not the first person who has suggested that I write a book someday though. I am doing better about making notes, and I already have the book title and a couple of chapter titles in mind 🙂 Blessings to you and Ed.