Spending time in nature is a vital part of wellness and well-being. Not only does going outdoors promote good health, but it also reminds us that we’re connected to something greater than ourselves: an awe-inspiring system of living things that has been designed to work together. I’ve long loved to visit our national parks here in the United States. This year, the national park service centennial inspired me to visit even more and write a series of blogs on the lessons that different natural environments can teach us about wellness. Here are some insights from the desert: Joshua Tree National Park in California.
At first glance, the desert seems like a hostile environment. Joshua Tree (which comprises some of both the Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran deserts) looks like a wasteland littered with rocks, shrubs, scattered palm trees, and not much else. How can such harsh conditions — little water, blazing sun, high winds, and relentless heat — actually promote wellness?
The desert shows us how resourceful we can be.
Spending time in a desert challenges us to adapt to our circumstances by finding ways to survive (and hopefully thrive) despite the difficulties we encounter. Animals and plants work on adaptation in a desert habitat. For example, kangaroo rats have adapted to life in Joshua Tree’s desert by absorbing water from the seeds they eat and escaping heat by going underground rather than sweating so they don’t lose water. They can survive even if they never drink any water at all! Among plants, for instance, palo verde trees have adapted to the desert by dropping their leaves during droughts to retain as much water as possible in their systems.
Just like them, we also have to adjust when we’re in a desert. I carried plenty of water with me, for instance — both to drink and also to pour on a sports scarf I wrapped around my neck for relief from the heat. I also wore sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun’s strong rays and the swirling dust kicked up by high winds.
Many different kinds of tough circumstances can pull us into a “desert” in our lives. Injuries and illnesses lead to desert times for our bodies. The stress of going through crises may lead us to a desert state of mind. Our spirits can dry up like a desert when we neglect staying in contact with God through prayer and meditation.
The key to thriving in the desert is being resourceful — learning how to tap into the resources we need, despite the tough situations we’re facing. What inspires me to be resourceful is to remind myself that the ultimate source of everything I need is God. He’s the one who created the desert and all other parts of nature; he’s the one who has the power to provide what I need in any situation. He can do the same for you, whenever you rely on him.
Tapping into a relationship with the Creator gives us the gift of “living water” the Bible says (John 4:10), which will empower us to meet any need we have in body, mind, or spirit. Just as a natural supply of water lies hidden underground at Joshua Tree National Park, the living water of help from the Holy Spirit isn’t something we can usually see. But it’s always there, available to us.
So the next time you find yourself facing desert circumstances, be resourceful! Look for ways to get the help you need by tapping into the gifts God has given you — from caring relationships with friends and family to refreshing practices like sleeping and exercising well. Adapt to your tough situation with the confidence that you can make it through successfully.
What have you learned from a recent desert experience in your life?