God saves us in many ways. Sometimes, He changes our environment. Sometimes, He heals us. And in some cases, He opens a path to a better life, just as He led the children of Israel out of Egypt.
All three of those manifestations of grace are on display in Isaiah 35.
- “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (verse 1).
- “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” (verse 5).
- “An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness” (verse 8).
As I’ve pondered this chapter this week, I’ve been particularly drawn to the first promise: that God can make our wildernesses blossom. This imagery returns in chapter 51:
The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.Isaiah 51:3, 2 Nephi 8:3
Early Latter-day Saint settlers in Utah viewed their extensive irrigation project as a fulfillment of this prophecy. (See J. Michael Hunter, “The Desert Shall Blossom As the Rose: Pioneering Irrigation,” Pioneer, Summer 2003, 10-14.) But I’ve been thinking about it in a more personal way. What wildernesses are there in my life, and how can God make them blossom? For me, a wilderness can represent a part of my life which currently appears to be unfruitful or disorganized. It can be a work project, a difficult relationship, or an area in my house or yard that needs some attention. I think God’s promise is very literal and personal: As I rely on Him, He can change my wildernesses into gardens.
The middle section of the anthem “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy” by Evan Stephens is based on this passage. As you listen to this performance by the Tabernacle Choir, think about how God has made previously barren parts of your life flourish and how He can do the same with other aspects of your life that may currently seem unfruitful.
Today, I will trust God to help me improve my circumstances. I will be grateful for the former wildernesses in my life which are now blossoming, and I will have faith that parts of my life which are less productive today can become fruitful by God’s grace.