Friday, October 17, 2014

Wilderness Survival Guide (II)

-Jeremiah 31:12

So. The chaos just settled down for a moment and you finally have a chance to take in your surroundings. For a while you were just trudging forward almost running at times, and always looking back over your shoulder to see what was coming at you next. You of course were unaware of where you were heading to since all you could be focused on was surviving whatever surrounded you in the present.

But now. Finally you have slowed your pace. Relieved to have a moment to catch your breath and gather your bearings, only to realize that you're in the middle of nowhere. Initially you probably want to cry, or maybe scream (depending on your personality) out of frustration or despair or perhaps a little bit of both. As if the chaos you JUST escaped wasn't enough to handle, now you'v got to figure out where in the world you are and how to even begin moving in the right direction to get out of there!


How about lingering on that sigh of relief and dwelling in a moment of gratitude because you actually made it to the wilderness! The caos and trials and hardship that you were sure would be the end of you- WEREN'T! Instead of seeing the wilderness as the middle of nowhere, how about seeing it as a wide open space where you can move about freely uncrowded and not pressured by whatever felt like it was closing in on you "back there."

If you read through the first post in this series, you know that the above scenario is where I find myself currently. If not...go back and kindly read the first post so I don't have to bore everyone else with a catch up paragraph :)

My mantra as of now is, "Don't be Israel." From the moment I came to and realized I was smack dab in the middle of the wilderness, I have made it my personal spiritual goal to learn from the lessons of Israel on their wilderness journey with God.

Let me recount a bit of their journey for you. It's interesting really and rather insightful in navigating my own wilderness season. *Also let me add, if you are starting to think that you may be in a place or season like this one, take some time and venture through the book of Exodus since obviously I cannot do it justice in just a few simple blog posts.

 Here's where we find Israel in Exodus 2...
"During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant withAbraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God 
saw the people of Israel—and God knew." (2:23-24)

Sounds a lot like that first little chunk of this post. They were trapped and miserable and exhausted and begging God to do something about just change something! I don't know about you, but I have certainly found myself in this same place. 

Now. All this time that Israel is enduring slavery and brutality and wondering if God can hear them or if He will ever do anything about the circumstances even if He does, God is hard at work orchestrating a master plan. Oh boy, isn't He always! The difference between this story and our own, is that we can see all of the behind the scenes orchestration happening on their behalf. The beauty of hindsight. Just take note of that and remember that we serve the EXACT same God who was making things happen for them, now. 

Fast forward to Exodus chapter 13. God has been working on His plan of deliverance for the Egyptians, and finally the time has come for them to take a leap of faith and follow Him and trust His plan...
"Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place." (13:3)

"Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses." (14:30-31)

Moses is purposely reminding Israel to take note. See what God is doing, how He is answering and REMEMBER it. Here is a lesson in wilderness survival for us. Sometimes in order to survive we have to thrive on memories and good moments and remember all of the times that God has been good and faithful. Remember how HE always has known what is best for us and used everything He allowed to touch our lives for our best. One positive lesson we can take away from the Israelites here, is there willingness to trust and move forward in faith when God did decide to act...although this is pre-wilderness we are talking about...

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph[a] had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people." (13:17-20)

This is where the trust comes into play. Trusting that God ALWAYS knows best what we need. Though we think we know best, and Israel thought they knew best, GOD is the one who does in actuality. And of course it's the best thing to grow us and change us and make us more like Him. The way between Egypt and The Promised Land was not a forty year treck through the wilderness, but God knew that's what it would take to not only get Israel where He wanted them but also to make them the people He had called them to be. It took the wilderness season to make Israel into God's chosen people. 

And this is the point that it all goes downhill for Isreal. Because they couldn't just trust. They could not find a way to gain God perspective, and this was a crucial moment to do so. 

So soon after this miraculous deliverance and their personal and national declaration of their faith in is where we find Israel...
"And the people grumbled against Moses" (15:24)

In reality, the wilderness was God's gift to Israel. He was showing Him grace after a challenging season. He brought them out into the open. A place to rest and be alone and free with Him. A place to trust His leading. They missed that beautiful opportunity because they chose to run with their initial human reactions and emotions. They made a season intended to be a grace period into another season of stress and turmoil and chaos. And because they relied on their own limited perspectives they developed a wrong view of and attitude towards God. They made themselves miserable.

It's sad really how often we do this same thing to ourselves. Simply because we lack God perspective. WE make ourselves miserable when that was most certainly NOT His plan for us.

Our mantra of sorts for this series is "Don't be Israel."
So many books and stories throughout scripture show us what NOT to do in the wilderness. Let's learn from their journey and their mistakes along the way and make better use of this place and this season: the wilderness.

I am aware that the word itself tends to carry looming, overwhelming, often negative connotations. But let's make it our goal to change that. To see the beauty here. Even in the wilderness.


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