June 4, 2017

When Your Beach Becomes Your Desert

Suddenly, somewhere, a plaintiff scream pierced the beach air.

Andy Nash

Three summers ago I was swimming with my wife and three daughters in one of the most beautiful places on earth: Krabi, Thailand, on the Andaman Sea. It was a perfect day: water so blue, sand so soft, food so good. Yet, as we floated in those heavenly waters, I still had the most earthly of feelings: never quite being fulfilled.

As I looked up into the sky, I suddenly found myself quietly singing: “Blessed be Your name, in the land that is plentiful, where Your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name.” Within seconds I felt completely different: a created being worshipping the Creator, not creation.

The following summer I was back on the very same beach, this time with a tour group I’d taken to Thailand. We’d capped our week of history, culture, and ministry with a visit to the same spot on the Andaman Sea—everyone loving the sheer beauty as my own family had. “Blessed be Your name,” we had sung, at my urging, for worship together, “in the land that is plentiful, where Your streams of abundance flow.”

On our final morning we were rolling our suitcases to our longtail boat when suddenly, somewhere, a plaintive scream pierced the beach air.

Suddenly, somewhere, a plaintiff scream pierced the beach air.

What was going on? Who was screaming? Nothing made sense.

I ran to the resort office, where Lili had fallen into her husband’s arms, weeping.

Someone told me: “They just got a phone call. Their son was killed in a car accident.”

What? My knees weakened. In a blink everything had changed.

The boat ride was frantic: people holding the trembling couple, two of us phoning airlines, everyone reeling, hurting, praying for our friends.

How quickly our beach had become our desert.

We got them on the first flight home—24 hours of grieving at 30,000 feet. A week later many of us attended the funeral of a young man we didn’t know . . . yet did. Forever we would be bonded with this mother and father. No one else would ever understand what we witnessed that day on the Andaman Sea.

There is a second verse to the song we sang on that trip: “Blessed be Your name, when I’m found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be Your name.”

The second verse speaks not of beauty and abundance but of loneliness and devastation. Yet the chorus was the same for both verses: “Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be Your name.”

Both times on that seashore—at both extremes—our hearts went to the same place.

In life’s beaches, in life’s deserts—and in all places in between—may we instinctively call on the name of the Lord.

Andy Nash ([email protected]) is a professor and pastor who leads summer study tours to Israel and other countries.