It’s easy for me to sit in judgment on the Israelites, on their lack of faith so soon after God took them out of Egypt. The splitting of the sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, shouldn’t those miracles have carried them for the rest of their days? Shouldn’t the truth that God was good have been permanently lodged in their hearts? Yet the records of their journey are filled with a cyclical lack of faith:
“They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them. He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan. He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand firm like a wall. He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night. He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers. But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the desert against the Most High. They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved, they spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert? When he struck the rock, water gushed out, and streams flowed abundantly. But can he also give us food? Can he supply meat for his people?’” (Psalm 78: 11-20)
I’ve often sat in judgment on them, but it’s amazing how quickly I too forget the miraculous. How one who was so recently brought to awe by His truth, her grainy eyes cleansed to see a firm path before her, is now wandering into that default ditch of faithlessness.
The rational mind swaggers in and tells me that the sharp-eyed wisdom I asked for and received was just a figment of a desperate imagination.
That the impressions I believed were from Him were just the machinations of a deceitful heart.
That it is better to be faithless and be right then to hope and be disappointed once again.
Because, you see, I know I have a heart as deceitful as us all, a heart that time and time again has almost killed me with its leadership. So my human instinct is to fight back with the logical mind to quash the deceitfulness.
But the human logic I try to fight back with while ignoring the voice of the Holy Spirit is just as diseased.
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
Both the natural mind and heart have elements of truth but are distorted by the fallen nature. And truth distorted is more dangerous than a bold-faced lie.
In a desire to end the longing, I’ve taken the directive to guard my heart as meaning to sterilize it with cynicism, stuff hope into Pandora’s box because then I won’t get hurt again. I believe that with enough analysis, I can think myself into dissolving my desires. It’s a systematic theology built on the idol of self: one where there’s no room for what I can’t understand, where the only dimensions are those I am aware of.
In her book Fully Alive, Susie Larson explains our reality is often not God’s reality; we often misinterpret the facts of our situation because of our limited perspective. When she was betrayed by a group of friends, in her reality, it confirmed a deep-seated fear that she was rejectable. As she looks back, though, she now sees God’s reality: he was freeing her from the fear of man.
And I’ve interpreted my reality concerning singleness in much the same way.
My reality goes like this:
Because I’ve been rejected, I’m rejectable.
Because I’ve never been chosen, I’m unlovable.
Because God has not answered my prayer, He doesn’t care.
And because He hasn’t answered me yet, He never will.
Over the past 5 months, God has led me straight into the fire of each of these realities and worked a painful refining. I’ve had to face my greatest insecurities and relive old wounds. But the key word here is refining: through the pain, he burned away lies I’ve believed about Him for years, about His goodness and about His love.
But now, like the Israelites, I’m tempted to exchange the truth He’s revealed for the comfortable lies. In publishing this, though, I’m publicly saying that I refuse to do so.
Instead, I’ll look back on the times that God’s timing seemed so wrong, even cruel, but the miracle that followed was so much more glorious than what man could imagine.
When God granted Abraham the long-awaited Isaac, and twelve years went into nurturing him all for God to command his death, I can imagine Abraham’s torment. But God brought a ram at the last moment, and now, as believers, we can see the prophetic picture of Christ killed and raised for us.
And Lazarus, Jesus knew he was sick, knew he would die, yet He stayed away. Why? Again, to tell a more glorious story by raising him from the dead. Before the miracle, Jesus told His disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
And the most glorious story of all seemingly descended into a cruel joke before the full story was told. In Luke 24, we hear the account of two believers rehashing Jesus’ recent crucifixion, perplexed and despairing as they interpreted it through the lens of their own understanding:
“ As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”“What things?” he asked.“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” (Luke 24:15-21)
In their eyes, all hope was lost. They had been wrong about Jesus, wrong in believing that he was the one who would redeem them. What they couldn’t see was that the resurrected Christ was standing right in their midst.
So looking back at how He’s worked in the past, I choose to trust that in my little story, God is working for His glory in the greater story, one that speaks through the millennia of a goodness that shatters human understanding.
Sometimes God works the most beautifully by making the timing seem impossible. We feel teased, when in reality, he is preparing something breathtaking.
We feel hopeless, when he is actually building us up into women and men defined by a tenacious faith that is not rocked by circumstances or the caprices of our emotions.
I’m tempted to be faithless right now, but as I publish His goodness in the past, I know it’s time to step up to a higher plane of belief. To rest in the mystery, in the lack of logic and in the uncomforted heart, and to trust that he is indeed working. To proclaim that however the story unfolds, “The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps” (Ps. 85: 12-13).
Larson, Susie. (2018). Fully Alive. Bethany House Publishers: Bloomington, MN.
All Scriptures are taken from the New International Version.