The Hard Places

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls. — Jeremiah 6:16

My favorite photo of Israel? It’s one with a view no one in the Bible ever saw. Not Jeremiah, not David, not Paul. None of the important Christian scholars had a chance to study it. When my pastor was in school? It wasn’t available for him, either.

Until the space race, until the technological miracle of orbiting satellites, no one ever had the chance to see a photo of the Bible’s homeland from 500 miles up in the sky. Of all generations, these views have been reserved for us. I have studied them for hours.

At that height, it’s impossible to see any of the people, and only the largest cities leave a mark on the landscape.

Mostly, it’s just land.

ImageBut what an unusual piece of land it is. There’s an ocean on the western border, a great desert to the east, and the entire southern half of Israel might as well be moonscape. There are craters and canyons, ridges and valleys, and almost no signs of life. The western slope of the Judean Mountains and the northern stretch of Galilee farmland is delightfully green. But the lower half of the country is about as foreboding a place as you’d ever want to see.

Very few people live in the hard places. And in the Judean Wilderness? No one lives there. Shepherds may traverse the hills, and Bedouins might find spots along the edges, but no one would choose to stay in the wilderness.

It’s a land made of rocks, sun-scorched sand and an occasional scrubby plant. There are no fresh-water streams. The Dead Sea is at the bottom of the hill, but no one can drink the water and live.

Interesting that God would intentionally take some people to the wilderness.

Moses spent time in the wilderness. Maybe he was in the Sinai for most of those 40 years of waiting. When Elijah ran for his life, he would travel though the harsh Negev. John the Baptizer came out of the Judean Wilderness.

After his baptism, where did Jesus go? He started his ministry with 40 of the most challenging days of his life … in the wilderness.

It has been said that God gave the Promised Land to his people, but that he kept the wilderness for himself. And anytime God wanted to do something great with a person, he took that person to the hard places. If you can learn how to live in the wilderness, depending completely upon God for your survival, then God can use you for his purposes anywhere.

Ever been to a really hard place? One of those wilderness places?

You might even be there now.

If not, the unexpected, unpleasant journey into hard places might come tomorrow.

Whenever it happens, if you find yourself in the wilderness, in some kind of horrible, confusing maze of life—don’t forget the lesson of Jeremiah 6:9–19. Stop. Look around. Ask for help. Ask for the ancient path, the good way. When you find the way, walk there. Don’t worry if most of the crowd is going in another direction. Follow Jesus alone.

And count on it. The rest you’ve longed for . . . is coming.

Want to travel to Israel with Pastor Andy Cook? Find details of his next trip and many more secrets from the ancient paths at


About Pastor Andy Cook

Author of four books, Andy Cook is pastor from Georgia who travels often in Israel and other lands of the Bible. You can see his teaching videos on the Christian Television Network or at
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