The Atacama Desert occupies 40,600 square miles in Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Some weather stations in the Atacama have NEVER received rainfall and the average for the whole desert is 1mm per year (0.04 inches).
The centre of the Atacama, a place climatologists refer to as “absolute desert” is known as the driest place on Earth. NO rain has ever been measured there since rainfall was first recorded.
Franklin Elmer describes this area:
“Morning after morning, the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains. Each noon it shines brightly down and each evening brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen raging high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks are observed far out to sea, the sun continues to shine on this protected strip of land. One would imagine this area to be an earthly paradise but it is not. It is a sterile, desolate desert. There are no streams of water and nothing grows there.”
Too often we long for total sunshine in our lives.
We have wished to be rid of burdens, and we yearn for smooth sailing, but like this sunny, unfertile Atacama Desert, life without its troubles would not be creative, productive or challenging. We need both sunshine and showers. The trusting Christian knows that in God’s wise design and under His sovereign control, the problems actually bring showers of blessings. Adversity is God’s blessing in disguise.
James 1:2-5 tells us
we can COUNT it all joy when we are beset by trials
because we KNOW the purposes of God.
We can LET God’s maturing process work in us,
while we ASK for wisdom,
that we won’t waste the opportunity,
but will use it to grow and mature.
Despite the desolation, there is also stunning beauty in the Atacama.
The desert has the backdrop of the majestic Andes Mountains. There are five snow-topped volcanos, which are the highest volcanos in the world. There are some sections of the desert with an annual rainfall of 0.6mm to 2.1mm and in these areas there is sparse vegetation and some magnificent cacti blooms.
A Christian who struggles with health problems or other burdens, but who delights in the Lord and receives His refreshing showers of blessings and His strength and enabling, is an undeniable witness to the REALITY of the Christ-filled life – like an incredibly beautiful CACTUS FLOWER in the desolate desert region.
Possibly the biggest lesson we can derive from the Atacama Desert is the need for “water” to enable us to grow and be productive. We know that water is necessary in life and in the Scriptures we see that spiritual life also depends on “Water” (John 4:10-14; 7:37-39; Ephesians 5:25) referring to the Word of God and to the Holy Spirit.
When we neglect the Word of God and the teaching, leading, conviction, enabling and fellowship of the Holy Spirit, we become just as desolate as the Atacama Desert.
I cannot say that I am glad when storm clouds come;
When days and nights are burdensome and long.
I like the peacefulness of sunny days,
When life is bright, and in my heart’s a song.
And yet, I know the wisdom I have learned
Or any courage that my life displays,
Was never gained in golden,. Sunlit hours,
But rather grew from dark and stormy days.
I’ve felt God’s presence closer mid the storm,
As I relied on Him to guide my way;
And through my trials I found a stronger faith
Enabling me to better face each day.
And so, I would not ask God NOT to send
Those testings allowed by His loving hand;
For ALL things work together for my good,
And things once questioned, now I understand!