The Hard Part is the Journey

By Ashley Litwiller

I have spent a solid portion of my life in or beside the water. I have some bad memories related to it. I had a cousin named Jonah who almost drowned. One of my first relationships ended beside the water.  And I feel the frustration of never learning the art of slalom skiing. On the positive side and perhaps more importantly, water reminds me of one of my favorite places on earth, the Sea of Galilee. I am also reminded of Isaiah 35, a very formative passage for me.

Responding to the Holy Spirit was the easiest when I was wading in the waves of the Sea of Galilee six years ago. I would have dropped everything I had if the Spirit asked me to do so. You cannot deny Jesus’ commission at the end of Matthew while walking the same pathways Jesus used to walk. I was completely marinated in the Holy Spirit and felt the tangible proof of God With Us. It was the land Jesus walked, the waves Jesus calmed, the descendants of those Jesus touched and the places where Jesus spoke the words, and we still study today.

To think I almost didn’t go on that trip to the Holy Lands. It was one of those moments where I felt the Spirit saying, much like my earthly parents have said about things like chores, “Would you just do it already?!”

When you pass a child not listening to their parent’s instruction in the grocery store, have you ever questioned yourself if you look like that to God sometimes?

I’m absolutely positive I have more times than I care to admit. There are times when I would feel the Spirit calling me out of my room because God needed to use me somewhere. There have been times where I have continuously tried to be there for others, and I feel the Spirit leading me into the wilderness. God’s assignments for us can be of short or long duration and easy or difficult to complete; we have to be in tune with the Holy Spirit to understand each assignment. Stubbornly crossing our arms to sit and pout is not the best choice.

A waterfall in Galilee. Photo provided by the author.

It’s comforting to learn we’re not the only ones who may have felt this way. Do you think Moses might have been tired by year 30 of his time in the desert with the Israelites? I do. Do you think David was tired of fighting and hiding from King Saul? He might have loved to go back to being a shepherd, the job he knew how to do if it hadn’t been for God’s call. Don’t you think, after all, was said and done, that Jonah was kicking himself for not just going to Nineveh in the first place? Do you think Mary, seven months pregnant with Jesus, may have been sick and tired of being around people who didn’t understand what God was asking of her? I imagine so. Isaiah 35 is a passage that brings us into that “end goal” mindset.

Just as the Spirit and a river flows, so does the story of the Bible. As I specifically consider Isaiah 35, the prior books generally show us such a flow. The Psalms provide a constant reassurance that God loves us, that God cares for us, and that God has the strength and power to enable us. Proverbs brings wisdom to minds constantly working to make choices to be a stronger disciple every single minute of every day. Ecclesiastes reminds us that everything of our own making is meaningless, God has perfect timing, and God is the only judge of what is good or evil. Song of Songs figuratively illustrates the passionate love that God holds for the church, his bride. Then Isaiah talks of the intimate involvement that God holds in each and every one of our lives. Chapter 34 reminds us the Lord’s revenge is real, evil will pay for what it did to God’s people. Before we enter into chapter 35, we read 34:16, “Search the Book of the Lord, and see what he will do…His Spirit will make it all come true.” We know God’s Spirit is working now to make all God has planned come true. 

Isaiah 35 reminds me that joy is one of the divine guarantees God has awaiting us, the redeemed after we have completed the work he has for us. In chapter 35 (NLT), we see what the Holy Spirit is working towards.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad … (v.1)

You’ll notice the majority of this Isaiah 35 shows how nature will be our cue to know what is going on; this personification of nature is common in Isaiah. Even those spaces that seemed barren, useless, forgotten, dirty, rejected, will be glad.

…an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! (v.2)

I have no green thumb, so I’m pretty excited for the day when flowers will be abundant. Song, however, runs deep in my veins and heart; even so, there are days I don’t want to sing or be joyful. The suffering around the world feels heavy.

…strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you…(v.3-4)

The same words were spoken to Joshua, Solomon, Esther, Mary, Peter, and many more are here yet again. God is in control, do not let your body, heart, or mind be distracted from this truth.

…streams will water the wasteland… (v.6)

Jesus came to save us. The opening of blind eyes, the unplugging of deaf ears, the lame leaping, the mute singing for joy.…Jesus came and healed! We know the proof that God comes right on time, and so we do not need to destroy our enemies; the Trinity has that covered for us. Spiritual and physical healing is the business of the Holy Spirit. Here, God uses water as a sign of that peace and healing.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway to Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there (v.8)

A route that was once difficult and uneven will now be easier. In ancient times, certain roads between temples were open only to those who were ceremoniously pure. Wild animals also made those trips dangerous, but no more.

Ashley passionately follows after Jesus inviting others to join her on the journey. She also enjoys reading boos or connecting with friends while cruising on a boat. She is an ordained LMC minister currently serving at Menno Haven Camp & Retreat Center in Illinois.

Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” (v.10)

Everlasting joy; there won’t be room for any other emotion. Hard to imagine, but such hope to reach for. 


The great thing about the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit is everywhere all the time.

We can read Isaiah 35 and yearn for the peace and calm described and instantly find it. The hard part is the journey, a daily decision for all our years.


When I get to Heaven, I’d like to be able to hear my God affirm to me that I did everything asked of me…don’t you? So let’s stop making excuses, stop complaining, stop letting stubborn pride win. Follow what the Spirit is calling you to do. Whatever God is asking you to do, do it right now. Don’t be the whiny kid unwilling to do what their dad asked them to. Would you Juuust Do It!?



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