5 Ways to Adapt to a Harsh Environment

I recently hiked the Peralta trail, just east of Apache Jct., AZ (Phoenix). It’s a six-mile hike up a desert canyon with a 1,500 foot elevation change. Yeah, it was a good workout! I was hiking with my seminary buddy, Dr. Bob Hunter, who is 10 years younger and a good athlete. I was able to keep up with him, by utilizing the tourist trick—stopping and saying something about the scenery! “Oh, look over there! Isn’t that rock formation cool?” He would stop and look while I sucked air!

Both of us did stop often to marvel at the mighty sentinel of the Sonoran desert, the saguaro cactus. This is the only desert in the world where these beauties exist. They are amazing plants, growing up to 40 feet tall and living up to about 150 years. Saguaros were scattered all over the canyon that we were hiking, like desert billboards.

What amazes me about the saguaro is their ability to survive and even thrive in a harsh desert environment. I think that God gave us plants like the saguaro to teach us about life. Thus, I want to suggest 5 ways to adapt to a harsh environment.

  1. Utilize the good times when you can, because they don’t last forever. Saguaros survive because they store water in the season of abundance. These cacti have an amazing ability to pull in hundreds of gallons of water, when it is available, and store it for the future dry season. It is a reminder that in seasons of abundance, store for future down times. Whether it is finances, friendships or business opportunities, don’t squander your abundance today, because you will need it in the future.
  2. Believe that personal growth is possible, even in the desert seasons. Saguaros grow at a very slow rate, but they keep at it their entire lives. Growth is possible in a harsh environment. Truth be told, we often do our best growing in the hardest of times.
  3. Develop internal fortitude. Saguaros constantly grow a strong internal framework of woody ribs to support their burgeoning weight. Local Indian tribes used to utilize the ribs of dead saguaros for building material. It is important in life to develop your inner person. This is vital soul work that must be done day-by-day through spiritual disciplines (see book recommendation below).
  4. Choose to thrive in a harsh environment. The Sonoran desert averages just 7 inches of rain a year. It is brutally hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Yet, these tall beauties live twice as long as we do. Here’s the life lesson: attitude matters. You can whine and cry about the hard times, or decide to embrace the heat.
  5. Trust God for a season of blessing. I’ve seen the saguaro bloom in spring. They produce a cluster of beautiful white flowers that later turn into a sweet red pod. These pods are critical for many desert dwellers as a food source and for producing future generations of saguaro. And they bloom right before the harsh summer heat. God is good and knows where you are. He is diligently working on your behalf to not only bless you, but to help you be a blessing to others.

When you’re feeling the heat, remember the stately saguaro, and remember that you already have what you need to thrive in the desert seasons of life.

Remember, it is a crazy life, for everyone!

Dr. Tony

Book recommendation: Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster

Jonathan Schuler