• Lori Johnson

The Wilderness Restored

2020 is here! A new year. A new season. A new journey.

At the beginning of every year my husband, John, and I enjoy taking what we call a month of “vision casting”. This is where we give the first of our year as a tithe to God. We focus on spending time in prayer, seeking what He has in store for us in the upcoming year. It’s a time for us to refocus our attention and align ourselves with His guidance and direction. However, on January 1st, I decided to look back and reflect on 2019. I wanted to see where the beginning of the year had started, and how it had ended on December 31. I was amazed. Shocked. Even brought to tears at the amazing, goodness of our God.

He knew everything.

You see, during the year, I failed to reflect on what He had spoken to me in the beginning. Honestly, I had forgotten what He had said all together. I recalled it was Isaiah 35 and that it sounded “odd” at the time. I remembered wondering what He meant by giving me that particular scripture. I opened my Bible to Isaiah 35—and I began to sob.

“Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” (Isaiah 35:1-10 NLT)

He knew everything.

He had given me the blueprints for Lincoln’s Hope in January, long before it was even a tug in my heart! He knew that 2019 would be the year where I would learn the intricate details of the barren wilderness. It would be a season where I would learn grief, heartache, and even disappointment with God. It would be a year of, “surely this is not the land that God promised me.” He promised me the promised land, yet there I was in the wilderness—the dry and barren wilderness. God gave me a child. It was a gift I had not asked for, but was graciously given. My womb had received life, and then all of a sudden it was ripped from me. I was left standing empty, dry, and barren.

In the book of Exodus, God guided the children of Israel through the wilderness in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I knew that He was with me in my season of loss, and I focused to keep my eyes on the One who would lead me through. I searched for Him and He was found. He was my cloud by day and my pillar by night. He never left me. Even when it was hard to see, He was and still is a good God. He cares for us more than anything else. He began to take the dry, barren parts of me and plant seeds of hope and life. He began to give me a vision. I can see the beginning of a beautiful and fruitful garden. I can see the promised land—the purpose. He planted Lincoln’s Hope deep in my soul, and he is restoring my joy and gladness— he is giving me a purpose.

Isaiah 35 is exactly what Lincoln’s Hope is all about. It is our blueprint. We seek the restoration of the wilderness; the rejoicing of the wastelands. We want to see the flowers blooming and hear the songs of joy. We will be there to strengthen those who are tired, encourage those who are weak, and speak the faithfulness of our God to those who are drowning in fear. We believe in healing. We will see lives ransomed. Sorrow and mourning will be replaced with joy and gladness.

We have hope for restoration because we have a God who knows everything.

Written by: Lori Johnson

(Photo credit: Arto Marttinen)

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