Deuteronomy 31: 7-8: “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (NIV).
The last time we were together, I shared a personal experience that God lovingly brought to the surface of my life. I’m still “in the desert” per se, but by choosing to trust God and praise Him while there, I’m confident that my time of wandering will be cut shorter than the forty years of the Israelites.
I can only assume that many of you reading this are experiencing either your own Egypt (still stuck in slavery with an annoying poke that hasn’t quite manifested to the noose around your neck yet) or you’re somewhere in the desert with the noose tightening as we speak. I’m writing today to encourage you. There are certain steps you can choose that will help ease the pressure of the noose and help you focus all your energy in the right direction to shorten the wandering and lead to a quicker entry to the Promised Land. After all, God wants us all to reach the Promised Land in every area of our life. It’s up to us whether we follow His map to get there or we keep wandering.
The first encouragement I want to offer is this: Buy a journal and start writing down the various praises, blessings, and answered prayers that God does for you on a regular basis. They could be simple like, “I was able to find my favorite coffee creamer at the store,” or more elaborate like, “I went over the budget ten times and I don’t know where the extra money came from, but our bills are getting paid this month.” One reason to maintain it on a regular basis is to make it a habit and also learn to not take God’s blessings for granted. The most important reason, though, is when life is more difficult than usual, you can pull out your journal and see in print the different ways that God has provided unexpectedly, blessed abundantly, or answered desperate prayers. And it’s very personal because they’re all things that have happened to you or your family. This encourages us when we are weak, prods us to keep going when we feel like giving up, and reminds us most of all of God’s power, His blessings, and His promises!
The second encouragement I want to give is this: Praise God for where you are. Yes, that’s right, praise Him you’re in the desert because it means that you’re being given the chance to grow and change and take your relationship with God to a deeper level. Trust that you’re right where you need to be, for now. Pull out the journal that you started and reread the different ways that God has blessed you and your family, taken care of you, come through for you, and provided for you. Keep adding to the journal as God continues to bless you even when you’re hot and tired from wandering (He provided the Israelites with manna and meat while they walked – He’ll do the same for you.) Don’t try to manipulate or control the situation and head back toward Egypt because it’s familiar. It may seem like it’s safer, but remember, that’s just a lie brought on by the master of lies. Instead, lay all your concerns and cares at the feet of the cross and then don’t look back, but instead praise God while you continue to walk forward.
The last step is this: Even though it’s initially difficult, choose faith instead of fear. Once you have started stretching that muscle in your life, it’ll get easier and easier to choose faith (even if fear was your default button) because you’ll remember and see how God has provided in the past. If He was willing to help you then, why would He stop now?
As we walk through the desert, even though it’s not fun at times, we can find a certain peace about the journey. “The Promised Land is worth the desert experience and really the desert isn’t so bad if I just trust God” (Marianne Clements). I guarantee that while the journey will feel like it’s taking forever, the more you take your hands off and trust God (He loves our faith so much more than obedience), the trip will be shorter than if you hold on tightly and try to control your circumstances. Part of finding peace in the journey is focusing on your blessings instead of complaining about what you may have to give up. And, yes, there is probably something that you will have to give up in order to get the greater reward waiting for you in the Promised Land.
Here’s one final thought. While you’re moving through the desert and especially on the days you feel particularly depressed or discouraged, don’t forget to stop, look around, and make some dessert (brownies anyone?) for someone else who’s on their own journey through the desert. This shows God that you’re choosing not to focus on your issues, but instead you trust Him with the outcome and you’re looking for ways to be used by Him to bless someone else.
So…let me ask you. Are you in the desert right now? If so, are you in fear of dying from thirst and starvation or do you have faith in God to provide for you during your journey? Don’t forget to share a sweet dessert with someone else as you both journey toward the Promised Land.