Devotional: Applying the Bible to my today.
"I am so done with this." How many times have you heard this statement lately? How many times have you said it? My answer to both questions is "countless times."
Bear with me as I meander a very quick bible history lesson...
The Israelites had experienced the miraculous - God rescued them from slavery in Egypt; He even parted the Red Sea for them to walk through as the enemy cornered them during their departure. Just "wow". After they were freed, the praise and worship of God began. That type of experience could create a God "high" for a lifetime... or at least three days.
It was three days after their Red Sea adventure and there was no water in sight, so the Israelites began to grumble. God led them to Elim where they found 12 springs of water and 70 date palms - problem solved. Whew. God is good. (Exodus 15)
- One month after walking through the Red Sea, somewhere between Elim and Sinai, there was no food. Therefore, the Israelites grumbled that it would have been better to have stayed in Egypt than die of hunger. God then provided meat and manna (a fine flake). God to the rescue. (Exodus 16)
- Then, by the command of the Lord they traveled to Rephidim, where again there was no water, and, guess what? The people grumbled... maybe a bit more than grumbled. Moses, their leader, actually became afraid for his life because they were so angry. This time God had Moses strike a rock with his staff and water came out. Way to go, God! (Exodus 17)
- Just when their bellies were full, Amalek attacked them. The Israelites won the battle clearly by the Lord's hand. Thanks, God! (Exodus 17)
- Then after all this, which was three months after walking through the Red Sea, the people met God as they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19)
What a roller coaster! So in three months post-Red Sea miracle, they experienced fear of dying from thirst twice and hunger once and were lured into war. Yes, God rescued them all 4 times, but that is a LOT of ups and downs. As they stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God had their attention, and they proclaimed "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do." (Exodus 24)
And so they did, until a day later when Moses was called back up Mt. Sinai for an unspecified amount of time (it ended up being 40 days and nights). The Israelites' memories of a good, provisional God were short lived. They panicked and declared they wanted "a god that will go before us!" A golden calf was created and worshiped to fill their fear, waiting, and uncertainty. (Exodus 32)
Four and a half months. They went from experiencing one of the greatest miracles in history to proclaiming they needed a god that would take care of them.
Human behavior does not vary much throughout history.
Here we are - 4.5 months since first receiving the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, and most of us didn't start this journey with a giant God "high" as the Israelites did.
It seems that we, too, have been on a roller coaster of events - declining economy, racial injustice, political strife, destructive protests - with God's provisions woven throughout. So much fear, fatigue, uncertainty, and a revealing of all our frailties and insecurities. I feel all the lows and highs just scrolling through my social media feed... with one person's post I mentally declare "this world is doomed!" and with the very next post "wow, God is so good!"
In what ways have you been hungry? So many hungers. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual.
In what ways has God provided? So many provisions, yet it's normal to feel "done" in the frenzy of it all and start searching for something to fill our fears, frustrations and uncertainties. So many fears. So much frustration. So much uncertainty.
In what way ways have you tried to fill your fears, frustrations and uncertainties?
Ideas for combating our tendency to replace God with something more tangible, especially when we are feeling "done with this":
I read an article warning us to avoid the "post-pandemic splurge". I feel that! I am a saver by nature, yet over the past few weeks I've wanted to buy lots of things or go on any kind of adventure despite its cost. It's not necessarily wrong for me to want or buy these things, but it's not normal for me - I'm reaching for something to fill the "yuck". I want to feel "good" rather than blah, frustrated or sad, but the longevity of fulfillment from such a thing is short lived and, if not put in check, can cause long-term damage. So how can we keep from reaching for such things and instead keep God at His rightful place - the forefront of our hearts and minds.
- Choose to cry out rather than grumble.
What is the difference between grumbling and crying out? Throughout scripture we are encouraged to share the desires of our heart with God, cry out to Him, to knock and He will answer. When the Israelites grumbled, God answered. It seems that God, at times, will answer our call whether it is crying out or grumbling, so are they the same? Nope.
One requires humility, the other is out of entitlement. One leaves us feeling blessed when the provision comes, the other leaves us believing we need more. While the provision from God may be the same for either a cry or a grumble, the end result for us is very different.
A grumble leaves us reaching for the new purchase, a new relationship, a glass of wine, or the church building to fill our void. A grumble cannot be satisfied.
A crying heart puts us solely at the feet of Jesus. A crying heart means we trust in His solution even if it doesn't look like what we envisioned. A crying heart means we know our journey will be victorious even if it doesn't look victorious right now. A crying heart can be satisfied.
I meander between grumbling and crying out. Grumbling leaves me in a downward spiral; crying out leaves me with hopeful anticipation. Let's put our entitlement down.
- Grow your perspective and your gratitude.
I walked into my garage and there was water everywhere. Not good. One of the boys had accidentally left the freezer door open overnight, which resulted in a frenzy of cleaning up water, throwing away a lot of food, and immediately cooking what meat was salvageable. My kitchen was a WRECK as I spent most of the day cooking more than 20 pounds of meat, chicken and sausage. I felt sad, frustrated and exhausted over the whole ordeal until I realized, "Wait, we have more than 20 pounds of meat, chicken and sausage ?!?!" Wow! And as I wrapped up the cooking, I went to work where I earned enough money to replace the food we lost. Hmmm... perspective, right?
These are very difficult times, but we still have so much in which to be grateful. Do not let anything (the media, circumstances, fear, politicians, annoying people, the devil) steal your perspective. My early morning prayer has been, "Jesus, please give me perspective today. If I am not seeing things correctly, then heal my perspective." When I have perspective, my gratitude grows.
- Ask for direction.
When feeling a void, ask God how to fill it rather than trying to fill it out of your own thoughts or whims. He will often bless us with a new relationship, an idea, or an adventure to grow us (or who the heck knows what He will lead us to - He is SO creative!). The thing we end up with or doing may actually look very similar to the things we may have tried grabbing on our own, but when Jesus is the supplier (and we know it) it keeps Him central rather than the gift. If Jesus is the supplier (and we know it), we don't have to hold onto the gift for dear life thinking it is our hope. We can hold onto Jesus, who is always working on our behalf and can continue to supply even more and greater things!
- Dream again.
Fear (aka the devil) does not want us to dream. Fear wants us to live small, safe lives. Dreams represent hope, excitement, possibility and draws out our deepest desires - desires God has often given to us. Combat fear by saying your dreams out loud, writing them down, and casting a vision. Create a mission statement for your life, and live it out despite your circumstances. Set goals both short and long-term, and redefine "success". Success is not just about hitting the goal, it's about everything that happens along the way. It is not a journey to success, but a journey of success. Combat fear with the thing fear hates the most - a God-inspired dream.
My big, beautiful dream has been to launch a new business in the midst of a pandemic. The plan to launch the business in March 2020 happened long before I knew about the pandemic, but the pandemic made me feel like it was a ridiculous idea. It's not. When God placed this idea on my heart so long ago, He was very aware of the timing. This journey is growing my faith. It has given me focus for these long days, and I am SO excited about all that's happening with this new work I have been called to do.
- Don't do this alone.
This may be a bullet point in every single article I write. Invite God, friends and family into all aspects of your life - your struggles, victories, sorrows, and dreams. Incorporate counselors, mentors, coaches. If you are interested in a Certified Life Coach to journey with you - reach out to me. If I am not a good fit for you, I will happily refer you to other gifted coaches that I know. (Learn more about Life Coaching or sign up for a free session here).
A very important aspect of having this team around you is to also remember that you are also team member. Just as you need others to sharpen, encourage, listen and help you, others need you to do the same. Be a good friend. Listen well. Be kind. Serve. You are the answer to someone else's prayer.
Rather than reaching for "things" that bring regret and require years to undo, lets allow this to be a season of rest, learning, opportunity, and growth in our relationship with each other and with Jesus.
Will you share with me...
... your experience of grumbling or crying out?
... an area of perspective and gratitude?
... your experience with trying to fill your own void?
... your dream or fears around the dream?
... your challenges around having the relationships and team you need around you?
... how you are investing in others?
... what you gained from reading today's article?
Father God, there is at times some temporary relief to our pain when we try mending them in our own ways, but I have learned that You alone are the Great Physician. You have such perspective regarding who we are, what makes us tick, and what ticks us off - it is because of this that You can provide the perfect resolution... long-term, soul deep healing rather than temporary band-aids. Heal our perspectives; help us to see Your work on our behalf. Remove us from self-absorption, and incline our hearts toward loving and serving others. Carry us through these roller coaster days, and make our journey a success. We love You, and choose today to worship You alone. There is nobody and no thing that can even compare to You. Amen.