Saturday, August 28, 2010
In the Wilderness
Image from: http://www.poweranimalsunleashed.com/images/forest-light-900.jpg
Do you ever find yourself asking God, “Why am I here? God why have you brought me to this place in life or a certain physical state?” I have been asking this question the last two weeks with moving not only to a different state out of the Midwest---but into a city! You can imagine how foreign it feels to a girl who comes from a state with more cows than people! It wasn’t unexpected, in fact, I somewhat chose to come here for schooling but it was a really long process of applying and waiting and so when it actually happened, It was like “Oh! Ok—well just kidding, maybe I’m not ready!” It’s not that I feel ultra homesick or that I dislike this place, it’s more of a, ‘Ok God, now what? It’s hard to feel your presence here and I feel like I don’t really have certain directions on what to do now that I’m here.” I’m sure you can relate to the guessing game that often goes on in ones head when they’re at this place, “Is it because I am going to meet my future husband? Is it because I am going to lead a bunch of people to Christ? Is it because I am going to be challenged ?” And on and on soon leaving me in this state of anxiety, frustration and discontentment. I wake up in the middle of the night unable to sleep because of my mind thinking about the next day or just seeking comfort. This cloud of loneliness will suddenly appear of my head and I am somewhat paralyzed from being a light to those around me throughout my days. My quiet times have been superficial and brief with my prayers ending up in tears and desires to feel God’s presence. Can you relate? There was a group of individuals in the Bible who had somewhat of a different circumstance but have shown some similarities to my situation---the Israelites .
The Psalmist describes their condition in Psalm 106 in light of God’s steadfast love. They were led out of captivity in Egypt and into the wilderness or desert. Though a series of events they found themselves being disobedient to God and their leaders, Moses and Joshua. The first part of the Psalm describes God’s steadfast love and praises him for all of his wondrous works (v 1-7). He leads them through, not over it, not under it but through the Red Sea (still amazes me!) and saved them from their enemies.
The scripture transitions into a portion, a rather lengthy one, of the Psalm that describes their discontentment, forgetfulness and disobedience to God. They begin worshipping other idols in fact this verse gives an immediate snapshot of their state “ They exchanged the glory of God, for the image of an ox that eats grass.” I mean, come on! A cow? Really? (Just wait, I’ll get to our modern-day ‘cows’ in minute). This portion carries on throughout most of the passage until verse 44 where it says this:
“Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all who held him captive.” (V44-46) ESV
Do you see that! What a remarkable God we serve. Seriously though, think of how it would feel to know that you deserve recognition for something huge and it goes to a cow. Does our God not have the most immense love and patience for us pitiful people. At this point you maybe thinking, “Well Joni, in your circumstance you’re not worshipping cows –you’re just wondering why in the world you’re in Little Rock!” True. But my discontentment stems from the same discontentment of the Israelites and it’s the need to know what’s going on when things are completely out of my hands: why am I in this wilderness?
I, like the Israelites, find myself ‘wandering’ and becoming consumed with ‘figuring out God’s will for me here’ that I am paralyzed from simply trusting Him and listening for His directions. So often I play god in my mind and attempt to figure out tomorrow before I complete living today; attempting to piece my life together so I know what to expect after the season I’m in. So when I am not feeling the Spirit, I become consumed with other gods—my body, my school work/job-related work, being consumed with the next guy I meet or talk to being ‘the one’---aka, Joni’s ‘cows.’ So you get it---now what? I’m still in a city and am not resting in the Lord. I found comfort for the first time yesterday in the words of a passage of scripture that is about as popular as John 3:16---Psalm 23. Let’s read it together/recite it because I’m sure you know
“1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
www.biblegateway.com (for anecdotes)
I actually listened to a sermon by a pastor Todd Wagner at Watermark Church in Dallas, TX entitled “By Still Waters” (http://www.watermarkradio.com/). He presented both of these passages within his sermon and I felt like the sermon was directed towards me (even though it was actually preached back in 2006! Scripture is timeless, amen?) He described how when we are not at rest in God---when we are consumed with the anxieties of life—we are being disobedient to God and we are sinning! Even though “worry” is not listed in the Ten Commandments or necessarily in those lists throughout the New Testament—like fruits of the flesh, worry is a sin! We are not putting our full faith in God. Additionally, he pointed out something unique—that sleep is actually an act of faith! When we rest—we are trusting that God will provide. The world shouts “Be efficient, be effective and don’t waste a minute of your day!” When in reality, God is calling us to rest! To be called into a place of quiet waters and green pastures of rest. After listening to the sermon and going before the Lord in prayer I felt as though the Spirit just breathed these words into my heart “ Just be all here Joni. Just simply exist here where I have you. You are not missing out on anything anywhere else.” I may never know exactly why I am here but it’s ok, because God does! And after the past two weeks of mayhem, I found myself finally collapsing from my rigid-state of discontentment and resting in the Lord—allowing him to ‘make me lie down in green pastures.’
One final encouragement---I am a big fan of this song by Watermark (how ironic!) called
“The Purest Place.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSj8JnrG7CM) And in their lyrics they describes where the purest place to be is in Jesus Christ—no matter if we are in the best place on earth or somewhat in the wilderness, we can find rest, peace, and joy in being in the purest place with God. What a gift to simply “dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.” Seek your Shepherd today.