Recently, God pulled up my deep roots from the place where we had been living for thirteen years, and moved us to a new place; one that is totally the opposite of our previous home. Not that there is anything wrong with our new location – it’s just that 10 months can’t compare to 13 years! There doesn’t seem to be anything terribly right about it at this time! By that I mean, you can sometimes feel like a foreigner in the land where you know God has sent you.
You see, after living in a small town for 13 years, we knew just about everyone and just about everyone knew us. A level of comfort comes with that. Especially for a preacher’s daughter who had gone to 9 different schools in 12 years! You know where to go to get your groceries; you know where your favorite stores for dress shopping are, and the place to get your favorite Chinese food. You have your close group of friends you know you can depend on. You become comfortable in your surroundings and that brings a level of familiarity this preacher’s daughter had never had before. I know that God allowing us to stay in one location for such an extended period of time was nothing short of a miracle.
But, the funny thing is, those 13 years were probably the most trying of our lives. Spiritually, physically, relationship-wise in our family, and financially, it was a complete mess for us personally! We were like the children of Israel who were slaves in Egypt. And yet, like Moses, we knew without a doubt God had called us there! So why would God call us to a mess where He knew our feet would touch the fire? Where He knew our relationship would dangle over the edge, almost to the point of no return. Why?
The children of Israel prayed to be delivered by the hand of God out of Pharaoh’s control. So in Exodus 9:1 it says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him…”. But the Bible also says in Exodus 9:12, that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Now why in the world would God send Moses if He knew Moses was going to hit a brick wall when he got there? I don’t know about you, but that just seems like God is setting himself up for a lot more work. I mean, God could snap his fingers and Pharaoh would release the children of Israel, they would walk into the Promised Land, and – bottabing, botta boo – it’s over with! End of story!! Done!!
But, no! See, God wanted the children of Israel to trust Him. He wanted to give them an example they could look back on and know that God was with them. He wanted the children of Israel to be able to see every trial as a testimony of His faithfulness and love for them so that, when they came to the battle of Jericho, they would have the faith to withstand and follow what he had called them to do – which was . . . nothing. See, while they were slaves, they had had to work (fight) for everything they had ever been given, and to struggle (fight) with all their might just to survive. Many of them may not have even known what it was like not to have been a slave. But God knew what laid before them at the battle of Jericho and to get them where He wanted them to be they were going to have to completely trust in Him – and not fight! So he laid out a plan that would take them through various trials and temptations, just so he could prove himself to them, time and time again – beginning with the 10 plagues.
But they had barely gotten out of Egypt when they began to moan and cry, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:12) They couldn’t see the something greater God had for them, because although they had been beaten and abused in Egypt, it had become a comfortable, familiar place to them.
I wonder how many times God looks at us and sees the same thing. He is trying to move us out of our comfort zone to take us to a higher level that will draw us closer to Him and yet we are content to be the slaves in Egypt.
God knew what was ahead of them at Jericho and was trying to prepare them for the Promised Land; for something they had never had before; for a way that a war had never been won before. They were simply to march, to stand, and to praise! Just walk around the walls of Jericho for seven days!
I don’t think it is by accident that all of the men of Israel were circumcised not long before they were to walk across the Jordan River to take Jericho. It wasn’t an accident that for forty years God covered them with a cloud by day and gave them a cloud of fire by night; and it wasn’t because he didn’t love them that He supplied manna to them every day! God didn’t just sneeze and the Red Sea rolled back when they got to the edge of it, either. God wanted them to learn to trust Him and let Him do His work.
I don’t know about you, but I think the society we live in today is no different than the slaves in Egypt. So many of us feel we have to fight to survive; to pay the utility bill, to put food on the table. We might even feel like we are fighting to survive to do God’s work. But I want to propose to you today that perhaps, like the children of Israel, God is saying to us, “Give up! Surrender your ideas, your ways, your thought’s, your plans, and just stand firm and march around the walls you are trying to tear down. Just march around these walls in silence, carrying me!” That is what the children of Israel did. They walked around the wall of Jericho carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
Maybe the new level God wants to take us to is just for us to walk around carrying Him, to let the love of Jesus inside us be all the weapons we need. Sometimes we just have to let go – give up everything that is familiar to us, that makes us feel comfortable – and walk in a way that can feel totally different and uncomfortable, in order to get to the place where He wants us to be. I don’t know about you, but I want to always go to the new level God has for me, even if I find that it is taking me out of the comfort zone in which I have been living.
I am not gonna lie: I have looked back since our move and said ”What are we doing here?” Then I begin to list off all the highlights and accolades that happened where we came from as I try to convince myself, ”Would it not have been better to die in Egypt than in the desert?” But then there is that quiet voice in me that reminds me of the things that were not so sweet, those secret things which I never let the world see – of my heart breaking, the fear of feeling my world was falling apart, and my marriage almost crumbling. If I wanted to deceive myself, like the children of Israel did, I could convince myself that going back to the bright lights of the big city would make me happy. But the truth is, the only thing that will make any of us truly happy is walking in Gods perfect will for our lives. And for me, and I am sure for you, failure to do that is not an option.
So if I have to give up all the conveniences of being near a big city to walk in a new level of relationship with Christ, so be it. If I have to give up Macy’s and familiar surroundings to see God use me in a mightier way than He ever has before – bring it on!! Because I have found that, in this life, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can replace the peace of walking in God’s will and doing His work.
I firmly believe that the trials of my past were only allowed to come into my life for the same reason God hardened Pharaoh’s heart: to teach me to trust in Him. I am thankful for the hard times in my life, because without them I would never know that I could make it through whatever comes my way. I have learned to trust in the creator of the universe and know that He is working all things for my good!
So I hope today, if you are feeling like a foreigner in the land God has sent you to, you will know that He is not punishing you but is simply taking you to a new level of intimacy with Him. He wants to bring you closer to Him in a way that will probably look very different than it has before. God never wants to leave us where we are! God never wanted the children of Israel to die in the wilderness; He only wanted them to trust Him. Will you trust Him today?