Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wilderness Survival Guide (V)

{But what will I eat?}

I think this may actually be my last blog post from the wilderness.

For now I should say.

And it's not like I am thinking I will cease wilderness living anytime soon, it's just that I have officially purged all of my thoughts and lessons on the subject for the time being.

This last wilderness survival guide post will be fairly short and very sweet. I say fairly short because let's be real, it's me we are talking about.

So. Once we have accepted our present location and begun to make the most of it and everything around us in order to move forward and to gain the most from our wilderness experience, there's just one thing left to confront. One of the most basic of needs for survival. Food.

Food in the middle of nowhere is not easy to come by, especially if we are not accustomed to being creatively resourceful in this area. Let me tell you. If I found myself in a literal wilderness, I would not know the first thing about finding food. I have learned quite a bit from my dear friend Katniss (forgive me but with Mockingjay just weeks away I had to make a plug for my favorite literary heroine) but not nearly enough to actually stay alive. I mean...I would be afraid to even eat plants without a knowledge of what was edible or poisonous, let alone hunting down and killing an animal and furthermore figuring out how to prepare it for eating. #overwhelming #Iwouldbesodead

Let's take a quick look back and see how our friends the Israelites handled this very situation.

Exodus chapter 15 is an entire song of Moses and the people of Israel recounting all of the amazing things God has done for them thus far and praising Him for how good and faithful He has been to them. It seems that perhaps they are finally getting it and recognizing His hand and His character and trusting Him on their wilderness journey...

Key words being "it seems..."

Flip the page to Exodus chapter 16 and you may as well have flipped a switch too, because they are right back at it grumbling and complaining to Moses and Aaron. This time about what they are going to eat and drink.

Perhaps the reason reading these encounters frustrates me so much is because they remind me too much of myself for comfort. It just gets under my skin how quickly these people forget all that God has done for them and how easily they doubt His faithfulness and goodness towards them. But I am sure what's actually getting under my skin is how often I do the very same thing. It's a pretty known fact after all, that the flaws that annoy us most in others are usually flaws that annoy us most in ourselves as well.

I digress. So here they are, two and a half months into their wilderness journey (actually fairly close to where I am in my own) with experience after experience of God showing up and coming through and guiding every step, and still they are complaining and putting Him to the test. STILL! He has delivered them out of an oppressive land and leader, sent them away with plenty of possessions, PARTED A SEA and killed their enemies, and put visible signs in the sky to show them where to go. And now they are worried about something silly like food and water.

From our perspective (knowing the whole outcome and seeing the entire story unfold over a few pages) it's hard to imagine that after all of that, after just praising and thanking God for His love and grace towards them, they are worrying about something as simply resolved as what they will eat. It seems that after seeing a string of such supernatural, large scale miracles, they would not even doubt for one second that God could give them a meal.

How awfully human of them.

But this is exactly what happens. They find some water (that God leads them to of course) but they don't like the taste and so they complain some more. Of course they could have just trusted that if God had led them to the water He had a plan to make the water good for them. They did not. Then just as soon as they were finished seeing God provide the water they asked for, they begin to complain about their lack of food to eat.

By this time, God is a little perturbed it seems, and rightfully so. Here's a little bit of the conversation that He has with Moses.

(Exodus 16:4-12)
Moses and Aaron told the People of Israel, “This evening you will know that it is God who brought you out of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the Glory of God. Yes, he’s listened to your complaints against him. You haven’t been complaining against us, you know, but against God.”
 Moses said, “Since it will be God who gives you meat for your meal in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, it’s God who will have listened to your complaints against him. Who are we in all this? You haven’t been complaining to us—you’ve been complaining to God!”
 Moses instructed Aaron: “Tell the whole company of Israel: ‘Come near to God. He’s heard your complaints.’”
When Aaron gave out the instructions to the whole company of Israel, they turned to face the wilderness. And there it was: the Glory of God visible in the Cloud.
God spoke to Moses, “I’ve listened to the complaints of the Israelites. Now tell them: ‘At dusk you will eat meat and at dawn you’ll eat your fill of bread; and you’ll realize that I am Godyour God.’”

God is desperately trying to get these people He loves so much to see just much He loves them! And because He loves them that much He will take care of them and provide for them in every single way. He will take care of the biggest things that seem the most impossible and the simplest like what to eat on their journey, but they have to trust Him in all of it. Faith in His character is essential for their survival in the wilderness and He cannot seem to get them to understand this. This of course is why their journey lasted so much longer than necessary. 

Later in this passage, God instructs them to only gather enough for their family to eat each day. Even after seeing bread and meat fall from the sky, the Israelites continue to take matters into their own hands rather than taking God at His word. Of course the food they keep against God's commands is no good the next day. In this moment, God is trying to deepen their faith and trust. Not only is He asking them to trust that He will provide every need, He's asking them to trust Him in this daily. He didn't want to give them everything they needed in one, quick moment because then there would be no more reason to trust Him for food and other provisions. He needed them to trust Him at every point, not just when there was no other option...but since they only seemed to trust when there was no other option, He had to make this the case always. So, in the wilderness it seems there never is any other option but to trust that God is going to be God. 

I wish I could say that in the chapters to follow the Israelites finally got it and they moved forward with less complaining and grumbling, but sadly this is not the case. In fact, their doubt and refusal to trust God continued for centuries through many more generations of wilderness wanderings and even exiles to foreign lands. 

Let's do our very best to not let this be our story. Of course we are human, of course we will doubt. It will always be a challenge to see past what is right in front of us and to dig deep in our gold-fish memories for all of the times God has proven Himself faithful, but we must, MUST do so if we want any hope of surviving or ever finding our way out of this wilderness place. 

It's the same for us now. Wilderness settings have changed, but the lessons God is trying to teach in wilderness places are timeless and similar. He is asking us to trust His character. To believe against all odds and seemingly hopeless situations that He is good and faithful and so much bigger than anything we are facing or lacking. And more so, He is asking us to trust this about Him daily. He never gives us more than we need to face any given day because sadly He knows that we would forget to trust Him without a desperate need. Therefore, He provides just enough in order that we will always experience and be reminded of our need for Him to be God in our lives. 

I will be honest and say that this is not always my strong point with God (hence why it drives me batty with the Israelites). I remember telling a friend once that I was nervous about a particular ministry endeavor because it was going to require so much trust in God financially which was something I had never really had to do so much. HA! What a ridiculous statement! The truth is, the reason I had never had to "trust God financially" is because He had been providing all along. The difference was my perspective in the provision. Finally choosing to recognize His hand in all of it. I have had the beautiful opportunity of doing just this in my current wilderness experience. I have watched God provide every little and big thing I could possibly need while on this journey, and I truly believe it's because I chose to walk into this wilderness season with God perspective rather than Rachel perspective. He provided a "job" while I was in Mexico that was fun for me but also gave me a little bit of income to support my traveling, I've received random checks and gift cards in the mail, He's provided jobs to fit the season I am in right now, and even the support system I need to survive here. I am thankful for my wilderness experience and that part of it is getting the sweet opportunity to experience God as my provider! 

Wherever you are. Whatever it is you are needing from God, He will provide. I mean, if He can make bread fall from the sky, I am beyond confident that He can meet any need you have. He knows exactly where you are even if no one else does, even if you don't! He led you there after all and therefore He knows better than anyone what you need to survive there and how to get it to you. Trust that. Trust Him. Trust that if He needs to make bread (or meatballs) rain from the sky, He most certainly can and for you He most certainly will! And while you are at it, don't complain about what it is you are lacking, because the truth is if we would simply ask, He would be delighted to give it to us! It's a joy for Him when we ask Him for things because this shows our need for Him, our recognition that all good things come from Him and He LOVES to take care of us. There's no need to grumble to Him about something He would love to do anyways. It's not like we need to convince Him because after all He already knows just what it is we need, He's just waiting for us to acknowledge Him in the whole ordeal. 

So this week, as you are wandering or perhaps just pondering the wilderness experience, remember that God is your provider in every place and in every season. Nothing is too big for Him and He delights to meet your needs in the biggest and coolest of ways and to show you again and again that He is indeed God! Let Him do that in your life this week! Let Him send you some "bread" from heaven and let yourself be amazed as you are so lovingly cared for :)

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