This post is a day late, I realize. Last night, there was a congregational meeting at our church that ran a little late. So, today, you get 2 for the price of 1.
Day Eleven’s reading comes from Numbers.
READ: Numbers 9:4-5, 9-12. This particular passage begins with Moses telling the Israelites to celebrate Passover in the wilderness of Sinai, which they did. Then, it lays out instructions regarding their cleanliness in regards to the keeping of the Passover.
THINK: “As humans, we are forgetful people, and as forgetful people we need tangible reminders–symbols–of who God is and what He’s done…..Under what circumstances are you most prone to forget who God is and what He’s done for you?”
This question convicts me. Many times over the course of the current situation my family is living through I have forgotten God, who He is and what He’s done for us. I’ve been so busy being mad over my circumstances, feeling like God had forsaken me, whining about how He had let this happen, that I had neglected to keep in mind, and thank Him for all the things that He was doing and had done in my life, that would prove He hadn’t actually forsaken me/us. Sadly, once you start down the road of “poor, pitiful me,” it’s easy to just keep going. This is not the first time I’ve found myself needing the prompting from these scriptures.
PRAY: “Take a stroll down memory lane. Think about the times when God was evident and at work. Allow your memories to guide your prayers of gratitude for all He has done.”
This is the one thing that has been one of my biggest weaknesses, especially over the past year. How easy it is to forget how good God has been when He has refused to give me my way. Or when things have gone my way, but because they were going well, I decided to take the credit for myself.
When I left home, I mistakenly thought that I could have exactly the life I wanted because I said so. For most of my life, things went pretty well like I thought they would. When I made good choices, things went well. When I didn’t choose so well, there were consequences. Everything was a fair game of give and take that always seemed to end with my coming out about where I figured I would, and at least where I aimed for, because I had aimed. That was just the way life was supposed to be. Right? You make a plan. You work the plan. Just like they say in recovery programs. “It works if you work it, so work it.” Granted, I would slack sometimes and not get what I thought I wanted, but if I had really wanted whatever that thing was, then I’d have worked hard enough to get it.
This thinking had even crept into my walk with the Lord. I figured if I was obedient, like the Bible says I am to be, then I will be rewarded. How is it that I had managed to miss all those pesky little passages about being guaranteed to suffer if I am identified with Christ? Somewhere along the way, the messages that said that if they hated Christ, they would surely hate me, had become just something that I would hear in church every once in a while, or something that happened in countries where Christians were really persecuted every day. In China, of course, this would happen. In Muslim countries, naturally, people should expect that their obedience to the Word of God would be met with hatred and disdain and even outright violence. But, this is not China. And this is not a Iraq or Syria. So, I should’ve been fine.
Then, one day, I spoke with a lady at church who told me something (2 things, really) that really stuck with me. The first thing: God wants us to come to with for everything and with everything, and if the only way He can get us to do that is to keep us desperate for Him, because we cannot help ourselves, He will. In fact, during one particularly rough time in her life, she prayed that she would always be desperate for God. My family’s current situation was only in its infancy and all I could think to say to her is: “But, I never prayed that prayer.” But all I could think was: “Why in the name of all that is holy would anybody ever pray that prayer?”
Then, about a year ago, this same woman said to me, “The thing about God is, what He wants is for our insides to match our outsides.” Look back at that prayer I said people would have to be crazy to pray. What I realized shortly after this precious woman shared this second thing with me was that I had, in fact, prayed prayers of desperation. I had sat in the pews at the church I attended in high school, a church I attended for 5 years and never once felt like I fit in, begging God to show me what this thing called Christianity was all about. Surely there had to be more to being a Christian than just saying some prayer and then sitting in a church pew for the rest of my life. I mean, if this is it, then why not just take me now. Otherwise, why else am I here? There has to be more to it than this. Please, show me what it is.
Then, as I got older, and had kids, and felt like I had kind of stagnated, I would pray that God would let me make a difference in the world, that He would “really” use me. I was hung up on doing something “big” for God. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that I was more concerned about doing something for God than I was about having a relationship with Him. I figured that if I could “really do something for God,” – something good enough or big enough or that nobody else had ever thought of or done – then He would have to accept me. I just couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t trust that He would accept me as I was and then equip me for the position He wanted me to fill. And even that, He wouldn’t do until I had totally submitted to Him: my plans, my will, my husband, my kids, my life.
Then, our desperate situation hit. To say that my world was turned on its head would be an understatement. I don’t know that it’s necessarily true to say that I forgot about God, but I felt like He had forgotten about me. I felt betrayed because He didn’t answer my prayers (and those of MANY other people) the way I wanted them answered. I felt like I had entrusted my heart to Him and He had taken it, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. Yet, I am surrounded by people who kept telling me that I could trust Him. “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” “Yes, I know,” I would say. But, in my head, all I could think was, “Is it gonna happen this side of Heaven, because, if not, then I don’t know if I want this.”
Then, I went to Lynchburg for my intensives. As I mentioned in previous posts, I went with just one prayer: God, please show up. Please reveal yourself to me. I don’t care if it hurts, or if I don’t hear what I want to hear. Just show up and show me something.
I had faith enough to pray that and I hoped (probably more than I actually believed) that He would answer it and not leave me sitting in silence wondering what in the world I was doing. And some of what He showed me was painful. There were some ingrained thought patterns I had come to accept over the years – thoughts about God, thoughts about myself, thoughts about my self-worth – that were simply not true, that I am going to have to work to overcome. There were also things God showed me that let me see that He had not forgotten about me, things that He had done for me and/or my family over the course of our situation, that could only have come from Him. THOSE things, I was not thinking about when I was complaining. I was too busy being ungrateful and indignant that He had put me in the position to be thankful for things I had never even wanted. And to top it all off, I kept trying to run away from the circumstances I found myself in because I just wanted so desperately to try to regain some semblance of control over my life. But every time I tried, something would happen, and I would fall flat on my face again or be told “no” again. I was actively trying to forget God because I felt like He had just abandoned me.
But the truth is: God had not abandoned me. No, instead, He was being faithful to answer the desperate prayers of a teenager, tired of not fitting in, who prayed that God would show her that there was so much more to being a Christian than just getting dressed up, playing church, and filling a pew every Sunday for the rest of my life. Granted, He hasn’t answered the way I wanted, but He has been answering it the way He has for generations. How is that, you ask? Well, for example, there is only one disciple (John) who died of old age. ONE. And even that one was boiled in a huge basin of oil, but survived.
What I have discovered (or what I have been shown) is that the only way that I can possibly grasp the gravity of what Christ did for me is to be put in the position to see how desperately I need Him. If I am honest, that is a position I have desperately tried to avoid my entire life. My prayers did not reflect that though. Come on! Tell me, when was the last time you heard someone pray that God would make them a mediocre Christian, or that their walk with the Lord would be mediocre? Don’t most people pray that they would be “on fire” for the Lord? Yet, once the fire’s lit, how often do we start praying for rain? How often do we start telling God that the fire’s too hot, that we can’t stand the heat, or that THIS is not what we actually wanted. All of a sudden, we forget just how God has blessed us and delivered us before, and now…we just want out. Or maybe that’s just me.
When God started answering the prayers I had prayed years ago, I had forgotten that I had prayed them. Then, over the years, I had forgotten the scriptures that remind us to count it all joy when we suffer all kinds of trials because they are testing our faith, which builds our endurance, with then ensures that we have everything we need, that we are perfected – complete and lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). Finally, I had forgotten just how God goes about preparing His people to walk with Him in a world that will grow increasingly more hostile toward Christians as the world progresses.
So, let me wrap this up, by sharing the final section with you.
LIVE: “Create a symbol that will remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life. Maybe it’s a photograph of your close friends or a rock you picked up during a hike. Put this symbol in a place where you will see it often. When you look at it, be reminded and thank God for his blessings.”
I don’t have a symbol yet. I have not created one yet. But I keep thinking about how so many Old Testament figures built altars so that future generations would remember what God had done for them on that particular occasion. I believe that this is definitely something that would be helpful to me, for the next time that I forget how God has met all my needs according to His riches in glory. For now, what I do is write. In a way, this devotional is my altar. And every day, I add another stone to remind me of how God is continuing the good work He began in my nearly 32 years ago, and of how I can be confident that He will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.