Finding your hope in a spiritual desert

By James Willoughby

Oasis isn’t just a terrible band from the ’90s with a front man who had more attitude than ability. An oasis is something we see off in the distance that offers hope. It is a watering hole in the desert. It is dreaming of a beach vacation in the dead of winter. It is a meal for the famished.

An oasis is the promise of something greater than what we are currently enduring. We all need a carrot of hope dangling in front of us to get us through tough times. Sometimes we may simply find ourselves stuck in an emotional, spiritual or relational rut where the days run together, and gray skies linger incessantly.

Other times we find ourselves treading some very rough roads. We must deal with loss, disappointment, betrayal, illness or other forms of brokenness that make it difficult to even find the motivation to get out of bed.

Whether we’re just feeling the winter blues or we’re living through hell, we all need hope. I know because the last decade has brought me through both of these seasons. I’ve had times when it was difficult to distinguish one day from the next and finding motivation wass challenging. And I’ve trudged through some dark valleys brought on by the loss of my sister and the near loss of my marriage, where I found it difficult to even put one foot in front of the other.

What got me through both seasons was hope. It was the recognition that life is a series of peaks and valleys, and no matter how deep the valley, it can’t last forever. I wasn’t always a believer in the Bible, but a particularly long dark stretch brought me to the Word seeking hope. What I found within its pages were story after story about people who endured hardship and thrived in the face of it.

There were no promises of easy lives. But there were many promises that we will be shepherded through difficulty, that hardship can change us for the better and that we have access to strength beyond what we think possible.

Even after emerging from the darkest period of my life, I still find myself in seasons where I struggle to find joy. If you’ve lived through winter in Ohio, you probably know what I’m talking about. To get through these seasons, I have to find little oases in my life. I look for glimmers of hope. I remind myself that spring always comes after winter.

One of the ways I do that in my marriage is by scheduling what my wife and I call an ‘annual abandon.’ We have overnight trips without our kids. It’s a break from the routine and gives us something to look forward to. We also enjoy date nights with some regularity.

I look for daily oases too. They come in the form of prayer/meditation in the morning, family time in the evening, home-cooked meals, holding hands with my wife while watching TV or movie nights with the kids.

If you are simply stuck or drowning in darkness, I encourage you to find your own glimmer of hope. Focus on it, and move towards it.

By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.