The Way is narrow and difficult. We know this. We are told that the righteous will have trouble. We are told that we must carry our cross and follow him (saying it and not even realizing the magnitude of such a statement). So why then, do we get so distraught, so upset, so frustrated and confused, when things do not go our way? When life is hard and we feel tired and in some ways, disappointed?
I feel this is our tendency, or at least mine. We read about the Israelites, traversing through the desert after the Lord has redeemed them from brutal slavery. They had cried out to God for Him to rescue them, to be taken out of the oppression of the Egyptians and He does just that! He rescues them and He works mighty wonders by His hand and He shows His power and sustaining love for them, not just in taking them out but from the weeks and months before where He shows Pharaoh who is really in control. But then…only a couple of chapters later we read about these Israelites, whose prayers had practically JUST been answered and what are they doing? They have the nerve to whine to God! They say “God where are you? Have you left us in the desert to starve?” (cue whiny voice) and later when He does provide they complain about a multitude of other things: demanding meat instead of the miracle manna that God provides, demanding a king because well…everyone else has one. And we read this and we just think come onnnn, are you really so ungrateful?! Did you really already forget the saving grace of the Lord who redeemed you from slavery, has provided food for you, is leading you day and night, AND has promised to take you to a land flowing with milk and honey? And we just want to reach into the story and shake them and say “wake UP!”
And then…oops. That is kind of like us too... isn’t it?
The Lord has brought us out of slavery. He redeemed us from all that brought us down and the lies of this world. He has provided for our every need. Even better than the Israelites of that time, He has now given us His very own Spirit, right within our hearts, by which He leads us day and night. He has promised to take us to a land, a New Earth, flowing with milk and honey and eternal joy. And how do we respond? A few chapters into our lives, when we grow parched from the toil of the desert, when our own selfishness and ignorance clouds our perspective, we completely forget all that the Lord has done for us and is still doing and we say “where are you, God?” “Have you left us here to die?”
Someone shake me so I can wake UP!!
How far this response is from the one that the Lord desires. Several times in my life, in my journey with the Lord, I have had this ignorant response. If I am honest, I have not been able to hold on to the perspective I ought to have in the deepest trials and frustrations of my life. In fact, I tend to be very black and white with my faith in these times. If the Lord is silent..MAYBE he doesn’t even exist! MAYBE this is all a lie! I did grow up in church after all, and I have this question and that one and that one. And I must find answers or ELSE I might walk away forever! Yes, maybe I will do just that…
But oh Praise my Heavenly Father! He never lets me get too far. He pours out more grace to me than I deserve, I must truly admit that. I feel ashamed just admitting this kind of response I have had, but it is true. Am I the only one? ... But the thing is, I have tasted the goodness of the Lord. I can never go back. There is nothing in this world that I want, nothing that appeals to me outside the glorious love and friendship and majesty of God. So in my Father’s incredible patience, He shows me little by little, again and again, that HE does hear, even my cries of ignorance, even my cries of frustration and hurt. I have before become tired of faith and have tried turning my back on it, but that has brought nothing good and never does last so long. So I realized, I must have a different response. I will not be like the Israelites, who as soon as Moses was out of sight for longer than they were comfortable, decided they would make themselves a nice, shiny golden calf. And they would worship that calf and be happy like the rest of the world who worships such things… No, I will no longer have such a response because (like the Israelites) that really never got anyone anywhere. So instead, in the times of parched desert land, when I feel exhausted, frustrated, and wondering “Where are you God?” I have decided to continue and really commit myself to the Lord, even still.
And so, I will even more come to the Lord. And cry out to Him. And let Him know my frustrations and hurts and longing to feel His safe place of refuge that He promises for all who come to dwell in Him. I will read His Word and ask for His Spirit before I do so. I will get on my knees, head bowed and I will talk to the Lord, and do my part. And I will wait for Him to come. In His way, in His timing.
Do you know what I have found?
When I do this, He does come. He IS a place of refuge for those who seek the power and safety of being in the palm of His hand. Recently, I have been reading through the Psalms knowing it is a sure fire way to find living water when my soul is weary. And though I have read through these scriptures many times, and the lines are familiar, there was something I noticed this time while reading. I noticed, that David and I have some things in common. He can be a bit black and white too, actually, a person of extremes. One minute, he is crying out to the Lord “Where are you?!” “Don’t you hear my cries?” “Do not be silent any longer!” and the next line He is praising the Lord, talking of the love relationship He has with His God, and saying that he will place his trust in the Lord! So I saw, that though I might tend to be a bit black and white, a person of extremes, both sides do not have to be in opposition. I can have BOTH cries - “God, where are you?! Do not be silent!” AND “God, I will trust you. And I love you because of who you are!”
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
YET you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust, they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame."
I find great relief and peace in this. That I can still trust the Lord, and be on a journey to grow in knowing Him, and be in a loving relationship with my Father while I still am so far from complete understanding or perfection. But that is why it is called “The WAY.” It is not “the finale” or “the finish line” (yet, at least).
But I am encouraged to feel affirmed that I AM in fact on The Way. Why? Because it IS hard, and dare I say, at times, even feels like carrying that cross. It is full of burdens and frustrations as I seek to follow the Lord with my whole being, with everything in me. So, like David I cry:
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."