Finding God in the wilderness

20th November 2018

Chris Nuttall shares his experience of the Holy Land as he reflects on Isaiah 40. 

Read: Isaiah 40 

I was thrilled to be able to go on a Holy Land tour in May led by the Scripture Union National Director and a Council member. We saw lots of amazing sights in Jerusalem, floated in the Dead Sea and sailed on the Sea of Galilee. What could be better?

But what struck me most was the wilderness! It was vast and looked very dry and barren. Every so often there would be a stream or waterfall but even then some were dried up. It made me realise just how valuable water is to the people there.

About two years ago, I entered my own personal wilderness. A combination of changed circumstances linked to moving to Milton Keynes, led me to feel that everything was dry, barren and without hope. I was diagnosed with clinical depression from which I only started to emerge about six months ago.

How could that happen to me? I have a strong marriage, a caring family, a good job, a strong faith, have been blessed in so many ways and even work for a Christian charity! To be honest, I still don’t really know how it happened, but what I do now know is that a quarter of us will suffer from a mental health issue in our lives and that it affects Christians too!

acacia tree

So where was God? I could no longer hear him speaking to me directly, I felt abandoned by him but now I realise he was there in the help and support of my wife, manager, family, close friends and a counsellor. They were like water to me. That is why Jesus speaks of himself as ‘living water’ because only He can bring life in the wilderness. And that is why at the end of the tour, I renewed my baptism vows in the Sea of Galilee, allowing Jesus to be my living water once again.

As a birdwatcher, I love the imagery of these words: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I’m not yet soaring, but I am starting to fly again and it’s wonderful. If you’re struggling with any form of mental health issue, do not be embarrassed – seek help and be kind to yourself.

'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’. Many of the 95% of children and young people who do not go to church, feel they’re in a wilderness for all sorts of reasons. What can we do to help them find a way out? Can we help straighten the path out of their barren places to find God again? Can we help them to know they’re loved and special and that, whatever it feels like, God will never give up on them?


Chris Nuttall

Head of Mission Enabling for Scripture Union England and Wales

My role is to oversee support activity, such as finance, technology, human resources, insurance, facilities and health and safety at Scripture Union to enable the front line staff and volunteers to share Jesus with children and young people efficiently.

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