In one of his sermons, our pastor talked about how we should be compelled to share the Gospel because, as the word means, it is good news. Sometimes in my fear of making other people uncomfortable, I forget that the news I have to share is good. Today after I was studying Joshua chapter 6, which sent me back to Deuteronomy chapter 1, I am so excited to share with you what I learned because this is very GOOD NEWS!
In Joshua chapter 6, the Lord gives Joshua instructions for how the Israelites are to march around the city of Jericho once a day for six days in a procession that is to include the armed men, the priests holding the ark, and the rear guard. On the seventh day, they are to march around the city seven times, and then blow horns and give a great shout after the seventh time, at which point the Lord would cause the city walls to come crashing down. When the Lord does this, it is the long-awaited fulfillment of His promise to the Israelites as stated in Deuteronomy chapter 1. After the Lord had delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, Deuteronomy 1:21 says,
Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.
In Deuteronomy, after the instruction to possess the land, the people sent spies into the land, initially with the stated purpose to scope out the land and the best route. However, the Israelites then refused to take possession of it, saying,
…’Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven…”
Sometimes after the Lord delivers us from something terrible and difficult, the next trial that looms in front of us can bring up painful memories of past difficulties. It can be easy to allow the greatness of the adversity to overshadow the miracle of the Lord’s presence and deliverance. We must learn to shift our gaze to the Lord so that we will not fall into this trap of unbelief.
My firstborn was not an easy baby. She did not have any serious health problems but had great difficulty with eating and sleeping due to acid reflux and food allergies, was premature, and had colic. A dear friend recently said that when my husband and I became parents, it was baptism by fire. I have never entered a season with so much shock as I did during the transition to motherhood.
A couple years later, when she had blessedly grown out of all the problems she had as an infant, I was driving by the hospital we had gone to so many times to see the GI doctor. Driving the familiar route from the hospital back to our house triggered a memory of a very stressful appointment my daughter had when she was about 4 months old. She had been in the middle of one her her terrible colic episodes where she was crying and screaming at the top of her lungs as though she were in terrible pain, and nothing I could do made it stop. She screamed as I took her out of the car and carried her into the building and continued screaming during an awkward ride in the elevator with one other person who must have wondered what on earth was wrong with my baby (welcome to the club!). As I remembered that day, I felt the stress and anxiety of it wash over me. Suddenly I felt Lord quietly reminding me that although that event had indeed happened, I was remembering the drive to the hospital, not the drive home. Through my memory, he took me back through that day, which was a snapshot of a season full of anxiety.
My husband had left work to meet me for the appointment, which my daughter screamed through, making it difficult to hear the doctor. By the time the appointment was over, I was so frazzled, I felt like I could not face the drive home with her screaming in the back seat. My husband offered to miss even more work so he could drive her back to our house, giving me a much-needed 20 minutes of silence alone in my car. You were remembering the drive to the hospital, the Lord seemed to say, not the drive home. The drive home was blessedly quiet and gave me the chance to calm down and gather myself because the Lord had graciously provided me with a husband who was so involved and engaged as a parent, he came to most of our daughter’s many doctor appointments, and he was so in tune with me, he gave up even more of his time to help out when I needed it most. Sometimes the Lord’s provision looks like a sudden miraculous deliverance, like when He parted the Red Sea, and other times, it looks like His gentle reminders of the people He divinely placed in your life to help you in the midst of your struggles. Either way, we need Him to help us fix our gaze on Him and on how He provided in the midst of our distress because it is so easy to become distracted by the circumstances.
Though the Lord had done a miracle in delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians, I’m sure they still had memories of the suffering they experienced when they were enslaved. Perhaps the memory of the suffering had eclipsed the memory of His deliverance. Deuteronomy 1:29-31 is the beautiful response to the Israelites’ complaints about their enemy:
…’Do not be terrified, nor afraid of them. The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eye, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’
Though God’s people complained and did not believe Him when He said He would fight for them, the battle of Jericho in Joshua chapter 6 is a miraculous fulfillment of His promise, delayed by their unbelief but fulfilled, nevertheless.
When I had my second daughter, she had many similar problems with acid reflux, eating, and sleeping, though most were not as severe as my firstborn’s. When I took my second daughter to see the same GI doctor we had seen before, my firstborn came along. Though I was frustrated to find myself quite literally back in the same place, I gazed with joy on my healthy, happy, joyful 4 year old, my beautiful reminder of God’s grace and provision, and I suddenly knew the peace of one who has seen the goodness of God in the midst of adversity. He did not make the problems go away immediately, but regardless of how He would handle it in His wisdom, I had a living, breathing testament to His goodness. Now that I am again past a second round of that difficult season, I can say two things with honesty and certainty: the suffering was significant and unpleasant, but He was faithful to provide.
When we are in the midst of the suffering, I pray that the Lord would open our eyes to see that “He carries us, as a man carries his son.” When everything around you is falling apart, may you rest with the peace of the one who is carried by the Lord. We do not have the promise of an easy life, but may we cling to the promises we do have, as stated in Deuteronomy 1:29-31– the Lord goes before you, He will fight for you, and He will carry you, His precious child. You may have a difficult road looming in the distance, but rest assured that as a child of the Father of compassion, you will be carried.