Eden in the desert

ONCE upon a time I lived in a world where I thought everything was more or less under control. I could—with some effort—make sense of things. I studied then worked then raised a family and lived life the best I could. And even though I knew the world wasn’t perfect—even despite my personal struggles—I felt an overall sense of security.

And during the journey, I came to faith in Jesus Christ. And life was good.

Now the fairy tale has come to an end, or at least to a very hard pause. I may try to appear cheery and happy, but deep down I know things have never been more serious. I look around, and I’m amazed, and sometimes horrified, at what I see. The chaos, anger, resentment, violence, and division leave me grasping for clarity. The velocity of major world events leaves me astounded.

Ground shaking under our feet

Suddenly, no political party truly represents us (not even close)—some religious leaders may not either—and many feel like lost sheep without a shepherd. In the past, supporting a leader or movement seemed to make more sense. Now, it’s all just a collision of special interests, power grabs, and thinly veiled expressions of vengeance.

For many of us, long-held truths and ideals have been challenged to the core. Some fall back to their default position, dig in their heels, and refuse to think or grow. Meanwhile, others swallow poisonous ideologies without realizing they’ve sold their souls to the devil.

And the currency of the day is intimidation and fear. And fear begets anger which begets violence.

What does this do to the everyday man or woman? How is a person expected to work, live, and love in this age of unprecedented uncertainty? I might be tempted to sit back at home or at the beach, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “What kind of world will my children inherit?”

Down south

I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The economy here was already crippled before the Covid-19 crisis. As the lockdown here shuttles past 100 days, everyone braces themselves for the full-scale economic impact. This mega-city is just now climbing the first virus wave peak (they re-tightened restrictions yesterday). And, like everywhere, the poor get hit hardest by the health and economic fallout. Destitution is on the rise as people line up at soup kitchens…

Should I return to the US where everything is cozy, safe, and stable since gun sales are skyrocketing? There doesn’t seem to be greener grass anywhere.

I don’t care if it’s all a setup or a real-life conspiracy. Either way the damage is real, and an illness of some kind (biological / psychological / psychosocial) pummels us all.

How in the world am I supposed to keep it all together?

The good old days… and now?

In what I now call the “early days” of my faith (like back in February 2020) I genuinely tried to live my relationship with God. I prayed, studied Scripture, participated in church, and dedicated time to service. In a way, I fed upon the “participatory” aspect of Christianity—but not on the essence, at least not completely. This realization comes to me only in our current context.

Unless you plunge yourself into mission work in Aleppo, Baghdad, Kabul, or Mogadishu there’s a good chance this happens to us all. Being surrounded by like-minded people, in a fairly stable society, made me feel good regardless of the depths (shallowness?) of my spirituality.

But now, even though those activities (prayer, Bible study, church, etc.) still have a place in my life, they rapidly take on new meaning. Much of it has been stripped down naked. Why? One word.

Fear.

We all smell it, and we all know it. The world is a much more dangerous place now. Whether you live in a war zone or a suburban bubble, the risk of getting sick, losing your job, war getting worse, or violence breaking out has never, in recent memory, been higher. And it’s all happening at once. With boiling social unrest, climate issues, and deep divisions within and between countries, the mix reaches a volatility never before seen in human history.

Meanwhile, we can watch it all and comment about it from our smartphones.

Something deeper is going on

I continue to seek, and receive, support from my community and church leaders. I pray and find comfort in God’s Word. But still… I lay awake at night sometimes worrying.

Don’t you?

This doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. It just means I’m human.

But my message is not one of lost hope or despair. And I do not call for a revolution unless it is a revolution of the spirit.

For anyone who says, “Keep Calm, Stay Positive”, good for you. But it’s not so easy for me these days. Still, something else is occurring on a spiritual level, and it’s massively significant. Our faith is being tested like never before. And I believe many are discovering the true strength of their faith.

When I lay awake at night, tossing and turning, worrying senselessly as all humans do, I stop my mind racing and ask myself… and God? Where is he? Is he going to wave a magic wand and make it all better?

In the desert…

And in the desolation, the tempter appears. Forget about God, the evil one says. Or, see, it was all just a fairy tale. You better run for your life. You better just take care of your own pride and hide. Do what you want, the world is going down the tubes anyway. There’s no hope. Lash out. Attack. It’s better if you harden your heart.

In some ways, the devil has a point. Things have gone terribly wrong. We’ve built up huge armaments and perverse ideological, financial, political, and corporate institutions to protect our self-serving interests now coming back to bite us. Meanwhile, most of our pets live much better than many, many of our fellow human beings.

The way out of this mess will take time. It will be painful. And I pray to God Almighty that we resist the temptation to bomb and kill our way out of it.

Meanwhile, a psychological artillery bombards my shield of faith. But I don’t want to hide my head in the sand either. So I examine my faith. What part of it is real? How authentic is it?

Is my faith shiny and strong? Or is it tattered, dull, and tiny?

And suddenly I discover something wonderful. Eden in the desert.

The Kingdom within you

Even the apparently dull, small faith—if it is true faith—when pressed upon and polished, it will shine and resist pressure like the hardest diamond. This stripping away—if you let it happen and don’t flee in terror—will result in something miraculous.

It’s a return to pure confidence in God. No more trappings, no playacting. It’s the essence, purity, and center of faith.

It’s the faith OF Christ and the faith IN Christ.

Everything else gets burned away in God’s all-consuming fire. Only faith remains.

So you face your fears including the fear of death. You face the fact that cataclysmic, world-changing events might only just be starting to heat up. And the flimsy participatory comfort you once felt has reached a hard stop.

Now, it’s just you and God. And instead of asking Where is God? you ask Who is God?

And Jesus Christ reaches out to you once again to show you.

He offers you his wounds, and in them you begin to understand.

Trust more.

Believe more.

Fear not.

Peace be with you.

And from that place—where even life, death, and security fade into the background—from there you build again upon something solid, something infinite. It is the true Rock that gives life eternal.

And your faith is rekindled by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Christ.

It’s God whispering to your heart in new ways to awaken you.

And in the name of Jesus, you cast out the evil one with the Word of God.

Then, even in the midst of calamity, you begin to live again.

You begin to love again.

And you are ready, come what may.

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6 Replies to “Eden in the desert”

  1. Mr. Vincent Chough,
    Sir, I must say that you have concentrated the feelings of every human being
    here on earth, at least the ones who care, along with the total summary of the
    state of affairs of this present world. This is most sad and extremely unfortunate. But this is only the result of man’s way of “running” things with the absence of God. For centuries we have had an Owner’s Manual to navigate this life called the Bible which for centuries has been ignored and thus this is what we’re left with. God is and always has been a patient God. But I believe, at some point, even God has had enough. Man’s own ego has escalated this earth and its inhabitants to a point of no return. All we have is Jesus and our faith, even if its only the size of a mustardseed to sustain us in these most turbulent times. Thank you Mr. Chough for your essay and assessment of our human condition of today. May God bless you and us all. Sincerely, Gregory E. Langford

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    1. Thank you Gregory for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts on the matter. Thank you for the blessing too (much needed!). My greatest hope is for the arrival of our Lord. My second greatest is that we can navigate our way out of this through faith in God to face the new dawn. May the Spirit of God be poured out over you abundantly!

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  2. In America we’ve (conservatives) pretty much come to the conclusion this battle is not party vs party, black vs white, haves vs have nots. This is good vs evil. I know which ‘power’ is behind it but I wish we could coalesce the earthly minions to stop them. Yet he would just find more minions. 2016 began the fight to reclaim our strongholds, and evil is shrieking and clawing against us. I have to keep reminding myself God wins. I hope to move to Texas in a few months from NC to be nearer family. God has distilled for me what is important. Thank you for your thoughtful essay. I have tweeted it.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this essay. Vincent, your writing captured the poignancy of our times yet directed readers to the truth we are not without HOPE. As we look to God, seek His face and fully surrender there is hope and there will be peace to help us endure all that rattles us like never before. Blessings!

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