Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

Fear and uncertainty are the two most common emotions that are expressed when people share how the new year makes them feel. We are still dealing with the lingering effects of the deadly pandemic. Despite the use of masks and vaccines, thousands are still getting infected and dying every week. In addition, with an increase in acts of racial violence, others say that our country is going in the wrong direction and that we are in desert of despair. What I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes God will place us in a situation that is out of our control so that we will see the miracles he can perform. By definition, miracles are positive circumstances that come out of the impossible. However, being in a desert can also be a place of miracles.
Deserts can be uncomfortable places for a number of reasons. First, a desert can be a place of isolation. Second, the isolation that you feel in the desert may influence you to do desperate things. For example, if you are in a relationship desert, you may begin a relationship with someone even if they really don’t offer you what you want. Yet, God seems to do his best work in the desert. The desert is a place where you can hear God without distraction and know that he is concerned about you. Genesis 16:7 says that “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.” Hagar was depressed and fled to the desert to escape Sarai’s mistreatment of her. However, the angel of the Lord found her and spoke to her about the child that she was carrying and his future destiny.
Moreover, the desert is a place of isolation but being there can also be the first step in fulfilling even a greater purpose. Genesis 37:22 shares part of the story of Joseph and how his brothers faked his death out of jealousy: “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” This was the first unfortunate step that eventually led to him being one of the great leaders of Egypt. It took him a few years to reach the place that God had shown him through dreams as a teenager, but God’s favor and protection were with him every step of the way.
In another example Deuteronomy 8:2 states, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” The children of Israel needed to be reminded that their years in the desert had a purpose.
Rather than complain about our desert places, know that it is in desert places that God is really setting us up to receive his miracles. Whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, desert places show us that God is with us, is faithful and full of mercy.

Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover:
Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of
God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda. You can also
listen to her podcast at