Surviving the Drought
Australia is the world’s driest
continent. It’s a land of vast arid plains and bare hills, of
parched and dusty deserts, where mirages shimmer deceptively,
giving false hope to unwary travellers. It’s a fierce
country, with three of the world’s most desolate deserts — the
Gibson, the Great Victoria, and the Great Sandy Deserts. The
rainfall in many of these areas is negligible. At times
drought follows drought in a seemingly endless cycle.
As dams and waterholes dry up, sheep become
bogged, making them easy pickings for eye-gouging crows.
Bleached bones around mud-crusted waterholes — cattle, sheep,
kangaroos, wallabies, at times even birds that may have bred
prolifically in a good season — are reminders of the devastating
effects of drawn-out drought. It’s impossible for animals or
plants to live without water.
Drought is something well known to many
Australian farmers, especially in marginal outback areas. As
the land turns to dust, drifting sands cover fences, crops and
whatever feed there may have been. They wait and listen for
the ‘drumming’ rains to refresh the scorched soil, and bring life
and hope to the earth, and its farming families.
Throughout history God has used the desert for
his own good and gracious purposes. The desert is a place of
testing, and of new beginnings. Think of Moses, or Elijah ...
John the Baptist, or even Jesus himself! Each of them emerged
from the desert tried, and strengthened.
We each have our own ‘desert’ experiences —
times when life seems to dry up, and everything looks desolate;
when hope shrivels, and even faith itself seems like little more
than the cracked mud of a once refreshing waterhole.
We have setbacks at work, or within our
family. Friends we trusted let us down. We face the
bitter effects of drought, or depression. Disaster
strikes. Our health is threatened. We struggle to
pray. We become disillusioned with the church ... even with
But when God leads us out into the desert it’s
for our own good. In the vastness of the hot dry desert we’re
cut down to size. Our pretensions are blown away by the
scorching winds, and we’re forced to admit our puny human
inability. We’re forced to recognise our utter dependence on
When we’re parched and desolate, and our hopes
run dry, we’re forced to cry out as did the psalmist David when he
was out in the desert of Judaea:
O God, you are my God,
and I long for you.
My whole being desires you;
like a dry, worn-out and waterless land,
my soul is thirsty for you. (Psalm 63:1)
God hears and answers such a despairing,
choking cry from one of his children. He opens our eyes to
see the beauty that’s there all round us — the vivid browns and
oranges, yellows and purples, of the rocks and mountains, the
blazing crimson sunsets, the jewel-studded heavens of a clear night
sky. And he sends the ‘rain’ we so desperately need. He
provides the water of life to refresh our dried-up soul, and bring
new and glowing life to our parched spirits.
After rains in the desert, waterholes are
replenished, dams fill, and stock and wild animals can drink
again. Plants shoot and blossom, and there’s a carpet of
greenery and an unbelievable blaze of colour.
And just as surely as this happens in outback
Australia, so surely does it also happen to every child of God in
his or her ‘desert experience’. God doesn’t lead us into the
‘desert’ to destroy us, but to strengthen us, and to reveal himself
to us more fully, in all his power, and his glory, and his
And so we pray with a colleague of mine, Aub
Podlich (Outback Reflections):
Jesus, water of life,
when we are parched and desolate,
and all our hopes run dry,
teach us to draw close to you,
as thirsty animals converge
at shrinking waterholes
when drought grips the land.
Robert J. Wiebusch
Paradise, South Australia