Remember the nation of Israel in the Old Testament? I’ve been reading Exodus very slowly over the past month or so, and I was reminded of their constant ebb and flow of faith in God. One minute they’re crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 13 + 14) and the next minute they’re forging an idol out of gold they all donated and worshiping the idol, thanking IT for delivering them from Egypt (Exodus 32). I mean, COME ON.
How many of us read these stories and study the Old Testament in our small groups or church services and scoff “ugh, Israel, why can’t you just have FAITH?” It’s agonizingly frustrating to see them give up on God over and over again.
However, I must remember that I have the benefit of seeing Israel’s story laid out from beginning to end (kind of) and I can read their ups and downs in minutes. I’m not out in the desert walking around wishing I had the comforts of Egypt. I’m not one of them, living out the hardship, unable to see what comes next. Hindsight is a powerful thing. If I had been in their position, would I have been much different?
I have faced quite a few hardships myself in the past two years, a lot of which are deeply rooted issues, and I’m still working my way through the mess. There have been so many moments where I have felt it would be easier to just give up. When God doesn’t feel present or seem to be doing something, it’s really hard to keep trusting. It’s hard to believe in what we can’t see.
You know what set Moses apart from the Israelites?
It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisibleHebrews 11:27 NLT
Moses kept going because He was looking at what he couldn’t see. He was exercising faith and seeking God even when everything else said that didn’t make sense.
Then (God’s) people (Israel) believed His promises. Then they sang His praise. Yet how quickly they forgot what He had done! They wouldn’t wait for His counsel! In the wilderness their desires ran wild, testing God’s patience in that dry wasteland. So He gave them what they asked for…”Psalm 106:12-15a NLT
I don’t know about you, but it’s a lot easier sometimes to identify with Israel in this passage then with Moses in his. When I can’t see the answers and I’m in a wilderness you better believe my desires are running wild and I want to grasp at anything that even remotely promises me some comfort and some solace because YIKES, I am TIRED.
But it’s that last part of Psalm 106 that gives me chills: So He gave them what they asked for.
Guys, let me just tell you, the Israelites got what they asked for but it was not what they needed. My desires are things that I want, but most of the time they are very far from things that I need.
Listen to this excerpt from a devotional my friend gave me as a graduation present that has truly lived up to it’s name, Streams in the Desert, by L. B. Cowman:
They (Israel) persevered only when their circumstances were favorable, because they were primarily influenced by whatever appealed to their senses, instead of trusting in the invisible and eternal God.
Even today we have people who live an inconsistent Christian life because they have become preoccupied with things that are external. Therefore they focus on their circumstances rather than focusing on God. And God desires that we grow in our ability to see Him in everything and to realize the importance of seemingly insignificant circumstances if they are used to deliver a message from Him.
Streams in the Desert, pg. 285. “July 24”.
I have spent a lot of time looking at my circumstances instead of focusing on the invisible and eternal God. And my soul feels the ache from it.
Yet when I take a step back, or simply a minute to breathe, it’s so clear to me that the hardest of circumstances are often the moments when I get to see God more clearly. Even though it’s hard and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I can’t let myself miss the message and the gift He is sending through the struggle.
Psalm 27 is one of my lifetime favorite Psalms. In various hard seasons it has brought such comfort and hope to my soul. Today, as I thought and read about these things, this verse brought it all together.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.Psalm 27:13 NASB
My eyes brim with tears as I write this, because this verse is not coming from a place of content circumstances. It’s the second to last line in a song that expresses fear and battle and longing and loneliness, all of which I have felt and know the pang of. Yet, David reminds himself in this song, and subsequently all of us, that there is hope. I can believe that God is good and I will see it this side of heaven and beyond
even when I am painfully lonely
even when I can’t stop crying
even when I shake from fear
even when money is tight
even when I lost someone I love dearly
even when I can’t see a job on the horizon
even when I don’t think anyone is able to help
even when my physical body seems out of control
even when it feels like the weight of sadness will never go away…
I still can, and choose to, believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I will see His goodness here, eventually. I can trust the Unseen, Eternal, God because I choose to believe He is good even when I can’t see it. I choose to believe that the next part of my story will be His intervention, just as He always saved His Israel even when they forgot His goodness every time.
This is my hope in the midst of despair.