Two(ish) months ago I was certain in what direction I was headed. Silence before the LORD had yielded it’s dividends and in hearing His tender, omnipotent voice the seas of my restless heart fell still and a course was set. I knew trials were imminent, as well as discomfort, but I was convinced of purpose in the pain and sure the glory of the destination would pale the struggle to get there. But the way of God often leads through desert places and the horizon was long ago swallowed up in great sandy dunes. The journey has been labored and the night watch filled with more whispering serpents than I thought. Vigilance, patience and faith have run low.
When things get hard it’s easy to question. Sometimes we question God. But I’m finding the more subtle pitfall of questioning my ability to hear God. Questioning God doesn’t hold much merit for me because I’ve come to know He is infallible and good beyond all understanding of the word. However, questioning myself… well, that has more validity to it. Which makes it so dangerous. Now I’m half way through that desert (the one without mile markers to tell me I’m on track) and in self examination I start to slow my pace. I glance from right to left, then, peer back over my shoulder. Finally I stop. My God! I am exhausted, frustrated and lonely. Why is this so hard? Maybe I did something wrong? Am I going the right way? What am I doing here again? Maybe this isn’t what I thought?
Habakkuk 2:3 For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late.
I’m often blown away but the people in the Bible. The greatest of them didn’t just believe in God, they believed God. More specifically they believed that God talked to them. But so often the vision “delays”. He shows up and tells Noah to build a boat and the man is crazy enough to think that he heard the voice of God and does it. One hundred and twenty years! What!? He was staying that course for one hundred and twenty years before a drop of rain fell. At any point he could have just doubted himself and stopped. David, Moses, Paul- they all actually believed that they personally had heard God’s voice and so responded. It’s amazing. God is so vast and immeasurable and yet so blatantly personal in how He deals with humankind.
Maybe God has spoken to you; perhaps there is a vision in your sight. Maybe it’s something “small”, like a change you need to make in your daily routine. Maybe its “big” like your life’s work. My guess is no matter what He said, if you actually have made any attempt to follow through things have gotten harder. I hit the headwaters of my hard last night. There, in the middle of my desert I started to make camp. One by one, I invited to serpents of discouragement, weariness and isolation to take their seats and started to hear them out. And then something shook me enough to remind me…
No! I heard the LORD speak and I knew this was going to be hard and I’m not going to start questioning myself now just because I’m not sure when/how this is all going to shake down. I kicked the sand into the fire, collapsed my tent, spit at those forked-tongue snakes, turned back around and kept on walking. Call me closed-minded, call me short-sighted but sometimes you just got to stick with your gut and keep on going- even when it looks like there are reasons not to.
Deception is real. We can get it wrong sometimes and go chasing rabbits down black holes that lead to no where. Sometimes circumstances are there to tell us “wake-up! It’s time to do something different!!” We need to stay in the word, keep good fellowship and be sober to avoid those traps. But sometimes, things are hard because we’re headed straight in the direction God has planned for us and we need to gird ourselves up for the fight. This life with Christ takes faith. It takes not only believing that God can but that God is. God is using me. God is speaking to me. God is calling me. Doctrine about God (though very important) doesn’t really require active faith but when God gets personal- well, that’s where the rubber meets the road.
And if it’s gotten personal for you then be encouraged. Don’t give up. Call to mind the things the LORD has done; both in scripture and in your own life. Write down the things you feel He has laid on your heart. Put them in a separate journal so you can easily go back and review and confirm them. Take heart that He has been speaking to and using very flawed people since the dawn of humanity. You are in good company so let your faith be renewed. Be humble before Him, be patient in suffering, be bold in faith, and be gentle in speech. God wills to do greater things than most of us are really willing to consider. If it’s starting with a small thing right now then let Him do it. It will create a pattern in your life that will set you on course. But today, take heart, and keep walking. When you arrive it will be suddenly and you will find yourself all the more ready for that promised place. Remember what you are fighting for and keep it in your mind. God is always with you so be comforted and full of joy.
Lastly, I submit to you these words that came to me last night as I purposed to forge on in His grace:
Ephesians 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm…”