I took a picture of my son looking into a soccer field through metal bars about a week ago, and my heart aches every time I look at it. It sums up so much of what I have been feeling recently. I’m sure many of you can relate. We’re on one side of the fence, looking toward the future and hoping it will someday involve green grass and blue skies again. But we’re still on this side of the fence. We’re still in the barrenness of this season, wondering how and when we’ll get to the other side. Perhaps we even wonder if we ever will.
I have been part of an online book study with a couple of friends for several months, and it has been so timely for this season of life. Ironically, we started it before the first coronavirus outbreak in China (yes, that’s how long ago we started it). God knew full well how much we’d need to be reading this book in the months to follow, and I can see how He was graciously preparing us in advance through it. It’s a book by Priscilla Shirer called One in a Million. In it, she talks about what it looks like to traverse the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.
One of the chapters talks about how God provides oases for us in our wilderness journey to refresh us along the way. As a result of reading this chapter, I have been praying nearly every day that God will refresh me in this season of life. I’m weary, and I get discouraged, disheartened, and sometimes feel like I can no longer endure. But I see different ways in which God has been answering that prayer. I see Him bringing small moments of delight throughout my days in the simplest ways.
Still, I’m a sojourner in this wilderness experience where, despite how many glasses of water I am given, I’m left feeling parched soon after I have drunk them. I’m constantly longing for more.
Recently, I have been pondering the thought that maybe God only provides enough refreshment to sustain us on the wilderness journey because we would otherwise get too comfortable and want to settle down in a place that God has not intended for us. Perhaps we are too often tempted to accept less than what God would give us for the sake of comfort and safety.
Does this idea ring true to anyone other than me? My greatest moments of growth have come at times where I have felt the least comfortable. It has been in these moments that I have been pushed to take bold steps toward the future God has for me—steps that I would have been too afraid to take had I been comfortable enough to stay where I was.
Priscilla Shirer speaks of a similar concept in her book. God wanted to lead the Israelites into Canaan, but the perceived risk it would take to get there in conjunction with their wavering faith in God caused them to remain outside of their Promised Land. Instead, they would wander in the wilderness for a total of forty years. Apparently, life on the outskirts of the Promised Land was comfortable enough—comfortable enough to determine that entering Canaan was too risky in comparison.
When I think of how comfort can keep a person from following God’s leading, it gives me a different perspective about this wilderness journey I’m on. God has sustained me thus far. I don’t want to get to the outskirts of where God is leading me and then settle there because I’m comfortable enough where I am and the risk of entering into God’s “promised land” for me is too risky. I don’t want to have come all this way to fall short of His intended destination for me.
I love traveling and have had the opportunity to do so by car, train, bus, and plane. There is something thrilling to me about traveling somewhere, regardless of the means of travel. This was our favorite thing to do as a family before the coronavirus made its way to the United States. We enjoyed discovering new places and revisiting old ones as well.
Part of the fun of traveling for me has always been the expectation of arriving to my destination. The truth is, the actual travel part of the trip is always uncomfortable to a certain degree. This is especially true the longer the trip. I get hot, my face gets unnaturally oily, and I nearly always feel stiff by the end of the trip. And it’s only more complicated now that we have a toddler in tow. However, the destination makes the temporary discomfort worth it. It’s a price well paid to discover a beautiful city and to make memories with my family (and our extended family when our trip involves visiting them).
Something I have noticed in my years of travel is that, the longer the trip lasts, the greater my discomfort. However, the longer the trip lasts, the better the destination.
Perhaps this is how I need to view the present day. This journey feels long and has been very uncomfortable. But I want to believe it will be worth it. I want to have faith that the destination at the end of this pandemic wilderness will be even better than I could imagine.
In the meantime, I’ll take whatever form of refreshment God gives me along the way, and I’ll ask Him to give me a grateful heart for these moments of discomfort, because I see Him leading me forward through them to who and where He wants me to be, and I don’t want to settle for less than what He has intended for me. I want the Promised Land and all the beauty that comes with it.