I'm gonna keep it real with you all - I don't even feel qualified to speak at devotions today, because I’ve been in such a spiritual rut lately. Here we are, in the middle of Lenten season, looking forward to the hope of Easter, the hope of the resurrection, and I’m honestly struggling to have hope at all.
My life was recently turned upside down a bit, as I lost my apartment and have been experiencing some trouble finding another one in my budget, in a safe area. And not only that - but I really don't even know where God wants me to live. So, I'm temporarily back at my mom's, which is not where I expected nor wanted to be as I quickly approach my 30th birthday. I've been angry, disappointed, anxious, confused - pretty much any negative emotion you can think of. I've also been completely unmotivated to read scripture, pray or seek out prayer, which is very unlike me. I feel like I'm losing a bit of myself each day, which is kind of embarrassing, because it's not like I'm at the end of my rope. I have a wonderful job, great family and friends, but sometimes when the routine you're used to is rattled, the uncertainty overshadows the good. The fear overshadows the truth. Can you relate? Has your world ever been turned upside down and left you wondering how you’ll move forward?
My dad tells me that I'm actually in a wonderful place, because God can do anything now. He could set up a home for me anywhere - all I need is faith in Him. Which my spirit so desperately wants to have, but it just doesn't right now. So, what do we do, when we as Christians struggle to believe? In preparation for today, I found myself scouring the Bible for people who have been in my position of discouragement. Have you ever done that? Have you ever said, “Ok, God. Speak to me, show me a story that relates to my life right now”? I needed to know that someone else felt the way I feel and came out of it with hope. Turns out, I landed on not just one person but many - the Isarelites wandering in the desert.
I can relate to them on several levels because I am:
- Feeling lost without a home of my own
- Longing for the way things were
- Questioning God's work in my life
- Straying from Him into worldly idolatry
- Anticipating delivery into my "Promised Land"
I certainly hope I don't wander around for the next 40 years. Can you imagine what that was like? It hasn't even been a month for me, and I feel hopeless. Lost for 40 years? The Israelites started to complain dramatically in Exodus 16:3 saying to Moses and Aaron, "If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."
Now, this is silly, but true - several of my family members and friends thought that my former apartment wasn't a great place to be. In no way can I compare where I lived for 3.5 years to slavery in Egypt, but I find myself longing for it, just like the Israelites longed for their former not-so-good situation. My apologies if this grosses anyone out, but one of the features of my apartment was a fly and worm infested shower. I'm sure most people wouldn't have lasted a week with that, let alone a few years, but oh, what I wouldn't give to shower with flies and worms again! Seriously! The Israelites had food a'plenty in Egypt, and I had peace a'plenty at my old apartment, even with my roommates of the insect kind. When you're feeling desperate, the past looks pretty good, right? I'd deal with A, B, and C if it means being home. If it means being safe and ironically more comfortable and canceling out my current situation. Have you ever longed for the past, even if it wasn't so good?
Back to scripture - the Lord heard the cries of his people and provided manna for them to eat and water to drink, and they were still cranky. The Lord has provided me with everything I need during this time of transition, and I'm still cranky. Like the Israelites, I've turned elsewhere for help. When things aren't changing as quickly as we’d like them to, it's easy to spring into action and try to take care of everything ourselves. The Israelites did this in Exodus chapter 32 by creating a golden calf to worship. God noticed and told Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’"
While I'm not physically bowing down to an idol, I am seeking out money to save me. If I can't afford a good apartment, what can I do? Maybe I'll cut this expense or eat cheaper food. Maybe I'll seek out a second job, anything to get more money, because if I had it, I could find a place tomorrow, and everything would be ok...These are the things that I can do. But I'm not meditating on what God can do. He's saved me twice! Once physically in an accident and again when I asked for salvation. Money has never saved me. Ever. Looking to it now is foolish. What is the golden calf in your life right now? Be honest with yourself. What do you look to for help instead of God?
What I need to do (and we need to do) is be less like the Israelites and more like Moses. He knew God had made a promise and would stick by it. He regularly communed with the Lord and made bold requests. In Exodus 33:18, Moses says, "Now show me your glory." Just like that. Hey, you know me, you know my heart, so reveal yourself to me in a big way. And God does! Have you ever prayed, "Lord, show me your glory. I'm in a rut right now, and I need to see you. I need to know you're working my life out for good"?
However, what happens to Moses? After years of wandering, the Promised Land is finally drawing near, and the Lord says in Numbers 20:12 - "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." Oof. After all that? The most righteous among them won't even get to experience their new, glorious home?
What does that mean for me? In this season, as I struggle to believe, am I robbing myself of blessings because I don't trust in the Lord? Have I already missed the right home for me?
The answers honestly might be yes. How can I expect God to be on my side if I'm not on His? If I'm wandering, doubting, seeking help elsewhere...
There's Good News for that. There’s Good News for me and for you.
The Bible teaches us that it's ok to feel discouraged, because life on Earth isn't perfect. It's ok to feel like God isn't near in your desert, because He still is anyway. It's ok to struggle with faith, because so many did and are and will - and praise God, He will prove Himself. If He makes a promise, you can bet He'll stick by it. And He's promised to never leave me - even if I stray from Him. He brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, and He will bring me to my new home, too, wherever that may be.
I urge you today that the next time you're in a spiritual rut like me, don't throw in the towel. Stay in the game, seek out truth, search for stories you can relate to in the Bible - they will be there. Ask God for help to believe. Wait in faith to see what He does. I hope to have a wonderful glory story for you next time. Until then, be blessed, and let's pray.