Sunday, February 2, 2014

God in the Dessert - A look back at 2013

We all daydream of mountain top experiences in our lives. Few of us like the moments in the valley or the dessert. But, I have been meditating on life in the wilderness for quite a while now.

For our family, 2013 was a year spent wandering in the wilderness. God ALWAYS provided for the things that we truly needed. Sometimes we had to wait until the eleventh hour. Sometimes God would not give us what we wanted, because He knew that we did not NEED it. But, God never left us.

When the Israelites were wandering in the dessert God provided their daily bread one day at a time. I have come to believe that this may be the single greatest sign that a person is truly in a spiritual dessert… because they literally have to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” (Daily bread could be literal food, physical strength, emotional stability, etc.) We humans don’t do well with one-day-at-a-time philosophies. I want to know that my financial future is secure. We want retirement plans, life insurance, secure jobs, etc. And, there is nothing wrong with good planning! God gave us our brains to plan for our future.

But, some times we experience situations completely outside of our control. In our case it was Paul’s herniated discs from January to March. Then, a few months of work. Then, another type of hernia from May to July. Back to work for a few weeks in August. Then, WHAM!, someone ran into Paul’s UPS truck and Paul was fired for being in a wreck that wasn’t his fault. Back to work in October and running strong till the end of the year resulted in a total of 32 weeks working and 20 weeks without work and without pay.

Talk about a dessert.

I hated it. I kicked against it. I refused to learn from it. I continually prayed against it. I wanted it over. I don’t ever want to go back.

But, yet…

In the dessert is where our faith is truly tested and refined. God loves our family so much that He wants us to be closer to Him. And, as I read the Old Testament (in particular) I see God saying to the Israelites that they will draw near to Him in the wilderness. They will cling to Him in the dessert. They will run to Him when under attack from the enemy. But, when they have plenty of food and money… then, they seem to allow distance to come between them and their Creator. (See Deut. 6)

We all do it.

I was crying the other day. Paul was with me while I was emoting… and he had some wise responses. He said, “What’s so great about the mountain? We learn in the dessert. We don’t learn on the mountain. On the mountain we say ‘Lord, should I build you three tents?’” (See Luke 9, especially verse 33) I see his point. Paul is right.

God loves to give us blessings. But, His blessings are not always in the form of more money and better health. There are times that He sees that we will grow from a period of sifting. Satan asks the Lord for permission to sift His people. He asked for permission to bring trouble to Job. These troubles are allowed by the Lord because blessings come in many forms.

Our family prays nightly that we will be the family God has meant us to be. It is quite possible that we need to go through some rough times to refine us and purify us. I cry out daily, “I want what You want for me life.” If you are going to pray that prayer…well, you need to be prepared for God to answer. And, it may not look like what you expect. Maybe God does want to give you riches and health. But, maybe He wants you to taste a bit of pain to be better acquainted with the sufferings of Jesus Christ. (see Phil 3:7-10)

Some of my dearest friends would view this line of thinking as heresy. But, Jesus tells us that in this world we will have troubles. He does not promise that we will be free from trouble! (see John 16:25-33) He promises that He will be with us when the trouble comes.

So, I write this on the edge of the dessert gazing towards the fertile crescent. It’s so close that I can smell the water and green grass. I acknowledge that I would rather be in the refreshing green pastures than in this arid climate, but I want to recollect (in case I lose sight of the Lord when we enter a time of abundance and plenty) that the time in the dessert was/is well-spent.

I don’t ask the Lord to take me back to the wilderness. But, if He sees that it is necessary for our family to spend more time there – I will try to praise Him in the midst of that situation, because God is still God. He is the One who gives us the daily manna in the dessert. He will never leave us or forsake us. And, I trust that the Lord will do what is necessary to fulfill His purposes for my life. (Psalm 57:2)

NOTE: I wrote this thinking that our time in the dessert was nearing an end. Paul was working full time at UPS (finally) and all would be well. So I thought. But, my fibromyalgia reached an all time low. In Feb-April of 2014, I could not take care of my own basic needs. Paul left his job at UPS to care for me and teach the children. At the time, it seemed like the only solution. The months that followed were far worse than the agonies we had experienced in 2013. So, perhaps, we needed more time in the wilderness to draw near to God. By American standards, we have not yet had a time of "abundance and plenty," but our table has food on it and we have vehicles that work. I am grateful!  

1 comment:

Bean said...

We have had a very tight six months, starting with my husband needing surgery, then having complications, time off of work without pay, then a harsh winter which limits how much my husband can work, but we have managed. And I have learned that we can manage on a whole lot less than I ever thought. Our plan is to continue living on our small budget always and saving away all excess, and we have now realized that is very doable.
Tough times can either break us or make us. I know that my reliance on God, at time crying out to God to help me through, as I admit there were a few times last month when incoming cash was very low, that I felt a bit desperate, but we made it through just fine.
I was thinking the other week that over the thirty years Dave and I have been married I worried over many, many things, paying bills, children, housing, health, and it dawned on me that all that worrying was pointless, everything turned out just fine, bills go paid, housing sorted itself out, health issues resolved, the children grew up just fine. This was an epiphany moment for me, so I resolve to no longer fret and worry as I can look back and see that God was with us every step of journey.