when life is dry pt.2: raising awareness and willingness to enter deserts, 10 things nott to say and what to say

so deserts are good and they suck, but they can suck less if we have somebody going through it with us. When somebody is in a desert or you can start to see they are going to be traveling through one then we can jump in for a ride and a journey. When somebody that is going to be embarking on a journey through a desert or is in a desert they do not know how tough things will get, how lonely it will get, how many questions they will have to face on that long tedious road. One things is for sure though that they are going to go through the desert

stepping into the desert life
somebody that is in a desert will have a hard time seeing or imagining what is ahead. It will be a long wearing journey to get through the desert and it will be best if they had somebody to go through it with them. It will need awareness and willingness by the person jumping into the journey with the traveler because what kind person would be excited about asking people to go on a long grueling journey with them. Be willing to jump in, but more importantly be aware. Look for people that might be in a dry season, that don’t have much direction or just aren’t feeling to excited about life. we all have those seasons, so be aware of them, but also be aware of yourself because there are things that we can say to somebody in a desert that can be very discouraging and make their desert experience much worse. Here are some things that can make somebody feel like their car is broken down in the middle of the desert in the summer.

Avoid saying I’ll pray for you. of course this is in a casual way because prayer is always needed, but often this phrase is used as an escape or the easy way out. This phrase is like you putting on your brakes and saying I am not going to be involved with your trip through the desert.
Avoid saying god is here with you . basic truths are fantastic, but they have their time. This is an important truth, but something even more important is allowing yourself to be the agent that will allow the person to see that god is relationally there with them.
Avoid saying everything happens for a reason. People can’t often find a reason why they are in a desert because there is always a path that looks better. this is not only not helpful but makes them dwell on their situation even more.
Avoid saying god loves you. this is another basic truth that is very important in the big picture life vision, but is often used as another escape phrase. Essentially what the person is hearing is that god loves me, but you don’t and I don’t believe that god loves me right now. This limits the person to understand love and see the love that god has for them by limiting it to a phrase. Let it be more about the action than the words.
Avoid saying look at the positives. Yes positives and pro/con list are great, but again in the right setting. In a desert things will seem cloudy or directionless because everything seems the same and most often you will end up getting a longer con list because the positive’s are hard to find
Avoid saying I am here if you need me. the all-time best nice person phrase that does not step on any toes or impose yourself onto anybody’s territory. Well there is something to be said for letting somebody process, but taking a journey through a desert is not the time to put the ball in their court. They feel like there is not much to talk about and most often will feel preoccupied with just getting through the desert. To the person in the desert it will come off as you do not want to be involved or do not know what to say. It is not about what you say it is about what you do.
Avoid saying call me if you want to talk. Another escape phrase that is a nice way to say if something life altering comes up give me a call, well that is the way it comes off. They do not want to pick up the phone in the middle of a desert to explain their new epiphany. They mostly need somebody to discuss things with when their mind is relaxed not when they are stressing so badly that they call a life line friend.
Avoid saying you are a strong person you will get through it. this is something they have a hard time believing because at this point they feel very vulnerable. They are in an uncomfortable area where there is nothing important around. Feeling strong is the last thing they will feel while they are lonely and giving that little slight encouragement at the end to remind them they can get through it, does not work. they need something they can believe in and connect with that is what will give us perseverance and hope.
Avoid saying things will get better. this one comes from a place of trying to empathize because you see their situation as something you have been through. Well that probably does not come off the same way to the person in the desert. They just think you are some fortune teller that can predict the end and discern the path that will have no bumps, sharp turns, accidents, break downs, or times of giving up. Don’t be a fortune teller it does not help.
Avoid saying there is light at the end of the tunnel. While in a desert it is really hard to believe without seeing, so if they can not believe what you are saying then don’t say it. yes there is light, but they are wavering in the darkness and in the uncertainty, so give them something that is certain or something that they can chew on. To see the light at the end of the tunnel we often have to get excited about something so that we can see a purpose for the long desert journey.

I don’t like when people right an article and point out all the negatives and give this robust critique and don’t give a solution, so here is my attempt at a solution. This is not a step by step or something that comes from a rule of fundamentals, but just something to be aware of as you are in relationship with people and you are walking in the world of people trying to connect.

Restoration in the desert
Here are some restorative things that can help somebody have a clearer vision of the big picture, of the promise land, of hope. It all starts with being involved so we have to be aware and willing to enter in. the best way to enter in is to engage with what I call the HFH which is 3 letters for 3 questions and they are what happened, what are you feeling, what is the hardest part. Sometimes people just want to be affirmed, so listen to their feelings and see where they are coming from. Bring it up again and ask them how they are doing with it at a later date. your role at this time is to not be a problem solver, but to be a friend and listen. At this point the lesser the words the better, but at the end give them something to chew on that is coming from an outside perspective for them to think about to get their mind of the pin point of the problem. I would say the most crucial thing you can do is to ask how you can be involved with them. People process and connect in different ways, but by you asking you are opening the door for them to invite you in to see how you can care for them. I would say it is really important to leave them with something fun and that can be as simple as asking them what are you passionate about, what excites you, or what do you enjoy. Then you can get to know them and you can use this to do something with them later that brings them alive or that shows you are investing in them in a way that brings them alive. with this they will be able to process, connect, and find a purpose for this desert. This is restoration happening in the desert, this is the great majestic river forming itself through the driest desert. This restoration brings hope, but most of all it brings love. we just have to be willing and aware

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