“They couldn’t escape their slave mentality, even though they had escaped their slave masters. They turned tail, and scampered back out into the desert.
So deeply ingrained was the sense that good things were not for them that they wandered in circles for another thirty-eight years. All but two of the people who had experienced that initial redemption died in the wilderness; it was a new generation–a generation not born in slavery–that finally claimed the land.
It took all that time for them to hear the voice of God redeeming them: ‘You are not slaves! You are free; you are my children, and I love you…’”
- Close Enough to Hear God Breathe by Greg Paul
Have you ever felt this way?
You begin believing, “This is all there is. Life will never ‘happen’ for me. I’ll always struggle with this – be enslaved to it – I’ll always be alone, messed up, a failure, _________. God’s not coming through for me. He’s forgotten about me.
I have too. I’m still grappling with “years of slavery” I’ve kept safely hidden, afraid to show in all their darkened glory. Maybe, fear whispers, when I reveal them they’ll take me back to where I came from.
Pain can do that to you.
Years of pain can really do that to you. After a long time – 400 years of Egyptian enslavement for God’s people (the Israelites) – it shifts from being a “tough season” in life to being your life. Seasons change; your problem remains. The pain you kept in the shadows creeps in til it’s all you can see.
Why does God allow this? Why does Heaven seem to close its doors and leave us alone to ‘figure it out’?
Maybe you’re in your desert, wandering around trying to make sense of it all, and God wants you to look up and realize HE’S JUST SET YOU FREE FROM SLAVERY. But you’re so focused on your current situation (I’m in a desert & it’s hot in here!) and your only paradigm is the past (400 years of slavery), so you’re not convinced His promises of hope and a future hold much weight.
Understandable. A million Hebrews died for this same reason. But they didn’t have to, if only they’d believed.
Do you think maybe He’s allowing your wilderness wanderings to strip away the pain of yesterday and prepare you for the joy of tomorrow?
Maybe there’s no other way you can trust His goodness and thrive in His Promised Land for you until you shed your Slave Mentality. And maybe the only way you can shed this negative mentality is for you to witness firsthand His incredible provision and love in a desert place.
Maybe Promised Land promises would pass you by, without you recognizing the rainbow’s end arrival, because you’d be blinded by past pain.
ARE WE THERE YET?
So you’ve left your shackles and entered the desert, only to find: Wandering. Confusion. Scorching heat. Dryness. You thirst for something refreshing and seek reprieve in the end, not another mirage or illusion.
When you’ve been going through hell – they say to keep on going. Stay on course. Do what you know to do. Then do it again. And pray God guides your every step.
It’s weird to look back on situations in my life that were like a thick cloud of grey at the time: I couldn’t see up from down if I wanted to (and I WANTED TO!). The more I look back at them, the more I wonder how I even made positive decisions because I so lacked clarity. Back then, I was convinced I was making an EPIC FAIL of my life. Convinced.
I thought I’d stumbled and made enough mistakes that the landslide of my future was now tipping back on me. I was on a seesaw – my “bads” on one side and my “goods” on another – but the bad so outweighed the good that I was parked firmly on the ground, too heavy to fly high again.
I was stuck.
It was my fault.
I would wander this desert forever.
The problem is that I only saw part of the picture. It was like holding a Polaroid picture in hand and assessing its contents based on 2 seconds of development. No, my friends – we have to wait longer for the full picture to be revealed.
SEEING IN PART
Speaking of our time on earth, the Apostle Paul stated that “We see in part”. If he didn’t have a clear picture of life – a man who heard the voice of Jesus and wrote a good chunk of the Bible – why do we think we would? (Excerpt of Paul’s tweets: Writing God’s Holy Word today. Should be canonized soon – I can feel it. #NBD)
I’ve heard it said that “The Teacher is always silent during the test.” In the classroom, the purpose of testing is to see if you’ve learned the lessons: Do you know the material – not mere head knowledge, but can you apply it to real-life?
I believe the same to be true with God. He can’t whisper the answers to your questions while your faith is being tested, shouting “HEY I’m right here with you, waiting for you to believe in Me! Remember: Hope and a future, girl, hope and a future!” Because then your faith would never be…. truly tested. It would stay shallow, as any such trust is when it’s never had to stand on shaky ground. We can’t learn He’s faithful until we are forced to place our trust in nothing but Him.
But if we are impatient with the haze and don’t allow the dust to settle, we risk making big decisions based on partial/inaccurate information. We risk selling ourselves short of the blessings God has in store for us – all for a piece of gottahaveitnow candy.
This shortsightedness and impatience with the journey may be the very thing that keeps us walking in circles instead of breaking free into the Promised Land. Just like the Israelites – they wandered for an extra 38 years though they were mere miles outside their destination because they wouldn’t believe that God had good things in store for them.
Save for Joshua & Caleb, an entire generation died off – 1 million people – bypassing God’s land of milk & honey because they rejected His goodness. All they knew was slavery, so His rich promises of blessing didn’t fit their mold.
I get it. I’m teetering on this precipice myself, hoping for goodness while standing in yesterday’s shadow. I wonder “Why should this time be the time it finally happens for me?”
PRAYING THROUGH DARKNESS
When everything I put my faith in began imploding, all I knew to do was pray. I tried to figure out what was happening, but nothing made sense. I yelled and blamed God at times, sadly, but then surrendered in prayer and left the ultimate solution in His hands.
The truth is, I didn’t know what was going on in my life. And for a “Must know” person, that didn’t go over well. I felt totally out of control, and I was. God made that abundantly clear. But we can’t grow to TRUST Him if we think we have all the answers. Recognizing that I was clueless was very humbling and frustrating.
But I needed to learn that lesson – and I’m still learning it.
The beauty of praying through our confusion is we can rest in His peace, knowing the result is up to Him, even if part of us fights the process tooth & nail.
I’m so glad I don’t have to make decisions based on my limited, photo-in-mid-development perspective. What a mess my life would be!!!
I have a Father who knows everything! He gives me what I need when I need it (because I’d just as soon take it ASAP), including information. If He hasn’t spoken to me on something, then I must not need to know. Maybe I just need to trust… that whole “Be Still” thing I skim over too often :)
LISTENING IN THE SILENCE
Despite feeling He’s eons away, God is never truly silent. He’s given us a Life Cheat Sheet: Rich with wisdom, humor, insight into our hearts & motives, the best “How To” collection ever compiled (how to treat people, prosper in life, govern a body of people – where many of our laws come from, how to live & think), even what will happen in the future (22 chapters on it!).
When our faith is being tested and our Teacher seems quiet, we need to seek answers in His book more than ever! He wrote it to guide us through uncertainty. So why do we ignore His voice when we need it most? We get off course when we tune out His loving counsel for that of our friends or culture.
The Bible is our only never-changing source of Truth. If you live your life ignoring its contents, that doesn’t make you any less susceptible to its rules & revelations! Your life will never be affected by a book more than His, so it’s worth the time investment.
Part of walking in the desert is to bring us closer to our Father. Life is not about reaching some “end goal” or finding our calling so much as learning to trust Him and grow in relationship with Him with each test of our faith. After a test, we learn God is more faithful than we knew Him to be before.
There is no other way He can prove His love & unfailing nature to us than when He comes through when we need Him to.
When your mind is reeling and you’re trudging through the wilderness like God’s people in the Bible did for 40 years, return to what He’s said for thousands of years: The very same words that have led, taught, encouraged, chastened & delivered millions of people before you.
He loves you and didn’t leave you defenseless or without instructions. But you must pick up His Life Map and apply it – or miss the benefits He wants to bestow on you.
Like His peace and joy in crazy times. Like His love & presence when you feel alone. Like His kindness when you’re hurting and other people have rejected you.
And like your Promised Land.
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12
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“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
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“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6
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“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go’.” Isaiah 48:17
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“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11
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“When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.” John 10:4
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“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13
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“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3