Have you ever been like Kevin? Have you cried out to God because of an injustice in your life, and experience his goodness in deliverance? Have you disobeyed God even thought you knew his commands were for your safety? Have you ever gotten to the place of deliverance only to complain about the discomfort there? As a result, have you complained and whined so much that you missed out on blessings that were to come at the end of that season? I am sure we have all experienced some or this entire scenario.
The Israelites were delivered from slavery and were grateful for a time, but that seed of bitterness, fear, and ungratefulness began to sprout in their lives. This seed germinated quickly and the roots spread through the 600,000 plus nation.
God gave an exhaustive list of rules and commands for tribute, atonement, celebration, and peace-keeping. Reading about them in Leviticus and Numbers made me cross my eyes, but it is a reminder of how much we need God, and there is no way that we can save ourselves. To be honest, I am so glad I live now and not in the times of the Old Testament!
What strikes me the most about the Israelite journey is that they were so close to the Promised Land! They even had proof that it was a good land, but they let fear and cajoling take them down a road of rebellion. They were seriously going to go back to Egypt! “‘…wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’” (Numbers 14:3-4). What? Why would they want to go back to the place where their very lives were mocked, and yokes were placed around their necks from people that God did not favor? To top it off, they were willing to rebel against God – the one who supplied food out of nowhere each day! Where else does it rain manna and quail?! Also, the spoils from the land that was promised to them was thousands times better than what they ever experienced in Egypt. It took two men to carry back the grape branch (I hope that we get to see grapes that big in Heaven)! At least God gave them a glimpse of what was to come. He was being gracious by showing them what wonderful treasure was awaiting their arrival.
Some of the leaders that had gone before them said that the land and the people were too large to conquer. This made the Israelites worried and fearful, and incited their coup. The God that delivered them had shown himself so many times, but they allowed dust of the earth (men) to make them do something silly. This seems ludicrous right? The sad thing is that the Israelites were serious, and God punished them for it. Their constant disobedience and ungratefulness cost many of them the chance to see what God had promised them (read Numbers chapter 14). Plus they had to wander around the dessert for 40 years. Sounds boring to me.
Their journey in the desert was not easy. I mean, they had to be ready without notice to move when God moved. That can be emotionally taxing. But if we stand firm in our belief that God knows everything and he knows best, then we should be flexible to follow him no matter where he moves.
The truth is that we are like the Israelites. We move into a new territory of life – unknown, uncharted, and sometimes uncomfortable. We see the lack as a sign of failure. We see the slow progression as a sign of a wrong turn. We see the unfathomable landscape as impassable. We doubt God, when he is actually using the time between deliverance and triumph to shed our skin.
Thinking about desert animals – reptiles, snakes, tarantulas – they all molt or shed their skins. It’s important for their growth and health to slough off the outer parts of them that they have outgrown and allow the new and healthy skin to feel the sun. This also allows for them to shed any deadly parasites that may have become attached to them. If these animals do not molt, the old skin tightens as the creature continues to grow, cutting off circulation, and eventually causing death or at the very least, a loss of a limb.
Our desert time is a place to shed our old skin so the new one that has been perfected by God can come through and shine of His glory. The skin from our old lives can poison our futures. Our old lives can stunt our growth. It makes sense to get rid all of that so we can truly be free. Why do we fight this?
Well, I can only speak for myself when I say the main component is fear of the unknown. What if I fail? What if I don’t like the result? What if it doesn’t turn out the way I want? What if the struggle is too hard? What if I suffer loss as a result?
All of these “What ifs” can paralyze a person and make them think that the old way is better. We know the truth – once we have been delivered from something, once we have been moved on from a place, we don’t need to go back. That is old news. God is into making things new! He is in the business of restoration and redemption. Why do we toil with our past so that it inhibits our future? I do this all the time. Even as I wrote this, I had an “ah-hah” moment and sighed because this post is directly for me.
I have been struggling with a few things for the past week. A fork in the road has been reached and I am seeking the Lord for answers. At one point, I went over the edge into the “What If” zone and I started making preparations to go back where I started. While there is nothing wrong with starting over, it is important to check the motive is why we are doing this. My motive I realize is I want an easier way, and I want to keep myself from experiencing and hurt or hardship. I want to be in a place where I am (seemingly) in control, even though I would probably be miserable because I know in my heart that being there meant I gave up while standing in the furnace. It’s hot in here!
Lord, I want so much for an easier life, but easy isn’t necessarily what is true, or what is good, or what is righteous. What I want most of all is to please You, God! When we become Christians, we are promised hardship. The hardship I am experiencing right now is a true test of on what and who I am going to rely.
There are certain things that I want in my life. I want to have experiences just like many women who are my age. I have hope that one day I will get to experience the fullness of a marriage union, complete professional satisfaction, financial means to help others in need, and satiated wanderlust. All these things are good and I am sure that God can snap a finger and I would be wealthy with these indulged desires. But…I am left questioning – is that what God really wants for me? Is that all? Is there something more?
I just finished the book The Hiding Place which is a biographical account of the life and ministry of the ten Boom family – specifically told firsthand by Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom. This is a woman who was a truly devout Christian, loved one man, who would never marry her because his family would look down on the union. This is a woman placed others above herself and actually enjoyed being around those less fortunate. This is a woman experienced extreme depravity in a concentration camp and had gratitude, even at her worst, in the small things like being able to read her contraband Bible. At the conclusion of the book I cried and asked the Lord to help me cultivate an attitude and a life like Corrie. I remember being angry at the man with whom she fell in love because he lead her on with his courtship knowing he would never marry her. I remember being even more angry when she had the resolve to bless him and his new wife, and was OK with becoming a spinster. Why would she settle for this? As I continued the book, I began to realize that she received the greater prize. She was given an honor here on Earth to serve and to actually make a difference among people who were hardened it seemed by the devil himself.
Lord, if I could only have a tenth of that tenacity!
So…are you perpetuating an Israelite journey? Are you risking being cut off from the community because of disobedience and shortcuts? Are you whining about shedding your skin? Are you in danger of roaming around in this season longer than you really have to as a consequence to your unbelief? I am asking myself these things too, and I am realizing that some of the answers are ‘yes.’
Lord, make me more like you. Help me to be still in Your arms. Let me pray without ceasing, giving gratitude and thanks for everything. Let me remember that in due time there WILL be a harvest if I don’t give up. I don’t want to give up Lord! I want the reward in heaven as a result of the things that I did here on Earth. Lord, take my life and let it be all for You. That is a very deep cup from which to drink, but I take it God. Not my will, but Yours be done. I ask that You help me remember this commitment as I walk this rocky path. I don’t take it lightly and I know, though not in the fullness, of which I am requesting right now. This is bigger than I ever could have imagined. I may kick at the geodes, Lord, but the truth is I know this time must come.
In Your presence darkness must flee; my path is so bright. At the same time Lord, I am very weary. I am so incredibly discouraged. Sometimes this is too hard for me and I need to sit down to be nourished by Your water. God I really want to scream that this is impossible, and pack up my car, and go to my home…my starting place. I want to make sense of it on my own! But You know that I know better than to act on that without You giving me the green light. Thank You, Lord, for this revelation and enlightenment! Thank You for being gracious to help me see where I am wrong and off base. I am sorry for leaning on my own understanding. I am sorry for allowing my thoughts and my beliefs about myself and abilities to cheat me out of the blessing on the horizon so many times. I am sorry for taking shortcuts.
I want to move forward Lord. Regardless of how situations will play out, I want to move forward and I don’t want to look back. I don’t want to wander around for the next 40 years. Besides, that will make me 80 years old. I don’t want to be that old just getting to the sweet life that I can experience during my short stay on this Earth. I want to have my best life today. Help me to see through your eyes, the things that I can’t see with my own human nature.
As I stay and wait, anchored in this ocean, grow my faith in your presence and show me how to walk on water.