Exodus 23: 20-22: “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you” (NIV).
Now that we are back, I want to share with you why I brought up the story of God leading the Israelites in the desert for forty years and how that can encourage you in your own life. I have shared with you in the past about different ways that we are called to make a choice. When a situation comes up unexpectedly or just through the mundane act of living life, we have a choice to look for the blessings that God gives or focus on what we don’t have. We also are given the choice to choose fear (worrying and stressing out about our problems) or choose faith that as long as we do our part, He will provide for us and the problem will be won, in His time, His way. His outcome might not be our answer, but His outcome is what is best for our lives, and definitely is so much better than our original answer.
I have had a chance this past month to either prove that what I’ve been sharing this past year works and is the best way or to ignore my own advice and wallow in fear instead. God revealed to me (lovingly, I might add) an area that had annoyed me for years. He wanted me to have victory in this area rather than to continue to ignore it. It went from just an irritating poke to a noose around my neck. It took a lot of time, attention, and energy that I should have spent being productive and instead was wasted, making me less effective as a wife and mother.
Now…let me back up a bit before continuing with my explanation. Before the issue became the noose but was still just an irritant, I had begun praying and asking God to help relieve the pressure. His answer was reassurance to me that He was in control by blessing our family not once, not twice, but three times with gifts that could have only come from Him. I know this because they were personalized, they were relevant, and they were exact provisions for the very thing that I had been worried about. How’s that for showing off for me?
Okay, now back to my original point. As the annoyance became a noose, I chose at that point to put my faith in God to help me resolve this issue instead of giving in to fear and worrying about how I would be able to solve it on my own. I claimed the promise God gives us as His followers that if I was obedient with my part (not doing things to deliberately sabotage His answer), He would be faithful and take care of the situation in the best way, His way. I took my hands off, trusted Him, and went about life taking care of my responsibilities in peace with complete trust in Him.
A few days went by, while I rested in the faith that God would provide and continued to look for things He wanted me to do, and then….the ultimate deceiver decided to test me to see if my faith really was strong or if I would crumble quickly into fear. After all, faith not tested isn’t really faith.
It started as a slow trickle – a little something here, another little thing there, to where I didn’t recognize it as a test at first, just a few minor annoyances. However, as we all can attest, little annoyances that pile up and come faster and faster soon become even bigger problems (or so we think). In God’s eyes, it’s still a test. I believe He wanted me to give Him the issues as they came in little spurts instead of letting them add up into a pile I couldn’t manage. I also believe that God had purposefully given me the three-fold blessing a few weeks prior for a reason. Not only does He love us and want to provide for us, but when the testing came (as He knew it would – after all, He knows everything), He wanted me to remember to praise Him. He also wanted me to remember His promise to take care of us as He had showed me in a much bigger way before the deceiver stepped in trying to destroy God’s good plan.
It took me a little while, but a friend gently reminded me, “Don’t let the enemy get you focused on the desert – keep your eyes focused on God and where He is leading – the Promised Land. But remember that there is always a desert in between” (Marianne Clements).
You see, all the things that I thought I had to worry about that revolved around my issue really weren’t things that were my problem. It was only when I remembered my own advice to put faith into practice instead of giving in to my fear that the noose started to loosen. That same friend reminded me also to: “Do what you can reasonably do (and what God reveals to you to do) and trust God with the outcome. Do your best and trust God for the rest” (Marianne Clements).
Now, I won’t pretend that I have this process mastered. And it’s not a one step process and then I’m done. Just like we need to keep refueling our body with food, we need to stay close to God through reading the Bible, praying, and taking time to listen for His still, small voice in order to keep our level of faith high. He designed it that way because He wants a relationship with us, not for us to follow a set of rules so we can check Him off our list and go about our day.
I’m also not at the end of my journey. The noose isn’t gone, it’s just loose enough that I can breathe freely and really hear God speak to me about what the next step is when it’s time. One of the reasons that God doesn’t want us to sit in worry all the time is because it ruins our emotional and physical health. When I was giving in to fear, my body ached, my muscles were tense, and I was so high strung my poor family didn’t know how I was going to react. Since releasing it to God, the problem is still there, but the tension is gone and is replaced instead with peace. I’m focusing on the blessings that God continues to give (and has given in the past) instead of focusing on the problem itself. I’m taking the steps that God has shown He wants me to accomplish so the noose will be completely removed someday. It might take a few years, it might only take a couple of months, but the point is, when God is the One in control, my mind and body are calmer and I’m more able to focus all my energy on the solution, rather than the problem.
The next time we meet, I’m going to wrap things up by explaining why I shared something so personal with you. My prayer is that through my experience you will be encouraged and gain peace in your own life.