The Road Through the Desert:
Making Sense of Wilderness Times
BRF, Oxford, 2001, £5.99
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed May 2002; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2002
Alison Jacobs begins her book by clarifying that she is not writing for those who voluntarily seek a desert or wilderness experience in order to meet God there; but for those who find themselves where they have no wish to be and try, perhaps rather despairingly, to find God in that misery or aridity.
In consequence, she calls it ‘exile spirituality’ and, throughout the book, parallels the story of Moses and the Israelites in their escape from Egypt and as they wander through the Sinai desert in search of their promised land. She urges her readers to persevere in making a way through the temptations, the bitterness of heart, the loneliness, low self-image and misunderstandings with others, the over-conscientious religious observances or the avoidance of such, even the ingratitude felt when a good thing occurs or someone tries to help, and the resulting guilt trips.
Jacobs shares her own exile experience (brought on by ME – chronic fatigue syndrome) and, from the background of her own struggle, offers practical guidance in combating the failures and difficulties which may arise for those trying to survive their own un-looked-for state of confusion. She suggests, as we might expect, Bible reading and prayer, but with emphasis on seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and on reflection, with the personal situation in mind, so that inferences may be drawn as to God’s involvement and our response.
We are reminded that faith and trust in God are of the essence; and she does not pretend that these are easy. But also that God’s desire is for our healing, peace and well-being, and that God’s love is sure and steadfast, regardless of our consciousness or our understanding. Then, too, there is to be balance in our striving: common sense about eating, the need for rest and the proper enjoyment of what gives real pleasure. Throughout the book there are references to matters of relationship; and almost the final word is of the support of friends or carers, the strength gained from talking, both with them and with God. And, I would add, from reading this book.
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