This morning I read Numbers 13-14 which records the story of the spies that were sent into Canaan charged with reporting back to Moses the state of things in that land.
The spies came back and the majority reported two conclusions:
- The land is a good land which “flows with milk and honey”
- The cities are fortified and we’ll never succeed in conquering them
I should point out that two of the 12 spies did not agree with the second conclusion but the other ten persuaded the majority of the people against attempting to take the land.
Then the Israelite people did something that seems very odd. They decided to choose another leader and head back to Egypt.
Think about it, they wanted to go back to Egypt, the very place where they cried out to God because of how difficult life was there. They begin romanticizing the memory of Egypt to make it seem like a relative place of safety compared to the unknown that they were facing in Canaan.
But don’t we do the same thing at times?
When we are faced with difficulty or uncertainty in our current situation, we can wish that we could go back to some other time and place that seemed like Paradise compared to what we currently face. Like the Israelites, we can forget about the discontent, stress and other annoyances that caused to move on.
The problem is that we can’t go back. And even if we could, we would find that it was not as great as we remember it. Can we agree that the good old days were not as good as we might wish them to be?
This is the pragmatic reason for not going back.
For Christians, there is a more important reason for not attempting to go back.
To attempt to go back ignores the fact that God has been using the events that got us where we are, even the really difficult ones. God is using the circumstances to complete what he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). Paul later tells us that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Paul hints at this, later in the letter, when he writes, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead . . .” in Philippians 3:13.
The hard bits of living are often the ones that are most effective in teaching us what is important and what is not. C. S. Lewis makes this point in his book, The Problem of Pain:
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”Goodreads
I feel called to point out, as I conclude, that sometimes God uses difficulties in our lives to show us where we need to change either our thinking or our behavior (or both).
We cannot go back, we can only go forward trusting that God has us where he wants us and will see us through until the end.
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