A Feast in the Desert

A couple mornings ago, I came across Luke 9:12 as I was “marinating” in my Bible. One particular phrase jumped off the page and sunk deep into my heart. (Don’t you love it when that happens?!). Just to give you a little context, it’s part of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand:

“Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, ‘Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”

Did you catch that? A desolate place.

des·o·late: [adj. des-uh-lit] 1.) barren or laid waste; devastated; 2.) deprived or destitute of inhabitants; 3.) solitary; lonely;  4.)having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn; 5.) dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects

The disciples were obviously referring to the literal location where Jesus was teaching– the terrain, the distance from surrounding towns, the absence of inhabitants, etc.

But they could have just as well been referring to the people in the crowd. People whose hearts were just like ours can be . . .

heavy with grief;

empty of joy;

hungry for satisfaction;

haunted by shame;

devistated by loss;

numbed by disappointment;

plagued by loneliness;

void of contentment.


Have you ever been there? I have. Even as a Christian. Even as a growing Christian.

Sometimes life is just plain hard. Loved ones get sick. Tragedy strikes. Children rebel.  Friends betray.  Singleness lasts way too long. Bank accounts run dry. Bad choices are made. Marriages unravel. Infertility shatters dreams.  Addictions persist. Parents age. Words hurt. Justice fails. People sin . . . and you seem to be the only one left holding the bag of consequences.

(What would you add to this list?)

Okay, so now that we are thoroughly in tune with how crappy life can be and how incapable we are of dealing with it on our own, here’s what I really want you to see . . .

Guess what Jesus does in the “desolate place” of Luke 9:12?

He takes a kid’s simple, bland snack . . .five barley loaves and two small fish . . . and creates a feast for thousands!

Verse 17 says, “And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.”

Because of Jesus, that desolate place became a dinner table. That uninhabited plot of parched ground became the setting for one of the most glorious displays of Jesus’ abundant provision recorded in the Scriptures. From that barren, gloomy land echoed the joyful sounds of families eating to their hearts content and delighting in the fact that it was all free! (What a beautiful picture of salvation, by the way!)

Psalm 78:19 records how the Israelites questioned God by asking, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?”

Yes, He can. And yes, He does. In fact, it’s His specialty!

Here’s what I know for a fact, what I’ve experienced in my own life, and what I am “raise-my-hands-and shout-halleluiah” excited about right now:

  • There is no place too dry or too desolate for God’s abundant provision to reach. In fact, it’s often in those desert seasons that we experience His “more-than-enoughness” the most. I know we’ve all heard that a million times, but it’s an easy truth to lose sight of when you are in survival mode.
  • No matter where you are or how bad things get, Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) who is perfectly sufficient for any and every need. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32) He doesn’t withhold good things from His kids! Of course, He gets to define “good.”
  • God sovereignly ordains the setting of His work in our lives in order to maximize His glory. Jesus can show His “awesomeness” anywhere, anytime. But people tend to pay the most attention when He does it in desolate places. Which is why He sometimes leads us there, or permits us to take a detour into one of those “I-was-really-stupid”, sin-induced deserts. The fact is, we exist to point people to Jesus. If we can do that better from a “desolate place,” then let’s rest in His sovereignty and “count it all joy” as we watch Him use our pain to magnify His perfection.

If you are in a “desolate place” right now, keep on seeking your Savior’s presence and keep on watching for His abundant provision. Oh, and get your Tupperware ready – there will DEFINITELY be leftovers!


  1. Wow!
    Were you in the next room just hours ago?
    You must of been sitting right here next to me….lol…. from know on the
    tissue box stays next to the computer… Thank you.

  2. thanks for your encouraging words!

  3. Karen Schoenfeld says

    Wonderful, April and very timely! Love, love, love your blog!

  4. Pamela Mattox says

    My friend…been trying for days to find a few moments to read this particular post. I am so thankful I read it today – God knows when we need things. I will feast on your writings about HIS words today. Love you!

    • Yes, He does! Don’t you love that the “feast” God sets before us isn’t low-sodium, low-sugar, low-fat, blah, blah, blah. 🙂 I love you too and will continue to lift your family up in prayer often as you navigate this new season. And thanks for sharing this post with others.

  5. Dawn Griesman says

    April, I am so enjoying reading your posts. I am so thankful for them during these days. Thank you

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