Have you tried to hike in the desert sand dunes? They give way, causing considerable effort in make any forward progress. Our footprints in the sand disappear with the changing winds as if we were not there at all. There is nothing to block the scorching sun. The ripples created by the blowing sand are like the sea.
No wonder the hot sun can play tricks with someone traveling through the desert seeing mirages. Moreover, the suns rays on constant shifting sands also can create images that conger up shapes like a serpent or a moray eel swimming over the dunes. Or they can appear as an oasis of refreshment. Don’t be deceived, but have the attitude of Christ Jesus to see the best in all appearances, even when there is darkness and not light.
Does your mind play tricks on you? Do you imagine seeing things that are not there? Do you imagine good or evil in another person’s perspective? What are the motivations of another’s heart?
I struggle when I do not know a person. I want to know them, as they are created in God’s image and likeness. I especially wonder when someone I see daily at work does not talk or express opinions or reveal their own philosophy or theology about any circumstance we encounter in our ministry as chaplains. I have trouble trusting someone like this. Yet, if I don’t know them I cannot judge them. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This Scripture is frequently quoted when speaking of giving financially, but it has a broader spiritual meaning applying to all things of the heart. Scripture says that we should offer each other from our hearts cheerfully.
In relationships each ought to think the best of another for it is for God to judge the motivation of the heart. Psalm 44 says that, “He knows the secrets of the heart.” You cannot hide from God; there are not secrets. The Apostle Paul tells the Romans, “As much as it depends upon you, if it is at all possible, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18). This is not always easy and God gives us an out so to speak by saying that with some relationships peace is just not possible. He alone can know what a person is thinking or whom they are serving. We are to “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7). We are to move and work without fear for, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
As a hospital chaplain I serve many people who fear their illness or upcoming treatment. I believe these emotions are normal, but can be unhealthy and create barriers to healing. We are to be encouragers and comforters for patients in crisis or fear. Our conversations can lead to helpful discussions of spiritual things that bring hope or peace toward healing of body, mind and spirit. Perhaps the most frequent subjects are pain, fear, doubt, and hope. Sharing these encounters with fellow chaplains on an intimate basis is part of our enhancing the quality of care as well as our mutual and individual skill building in serving our patients and their families. Deserts in relationships can create an environment where learning is stifled and coordination of care is risked.
The atmosphere in our work and hearts should be that of Christ Jesus who gifted us with His hidden “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2). These riches should work themselves out in all relations, “putting on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another as Christ forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV).
God is “doing a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19 NKJV). May our desert times be full of springs and not serpent-like or selfish design.