Photo by Jesse Rinka Photography
I entered a period shortly after having kids where I felt like I was wandering in the desert. I had my first daughter at 24 – much earlier than my husband and I had planned for. I quit teaching to stay at home with my two little ones. I battled discouragement and despair while doing ministry in the small church God had called my husband and me to serve. And I had very little community to process, grow, and do life with. I prayed that God would move with the same power I saw Him display all throughout the Bible. And in the secret place, I found hope in His promises over my life.
But many times as I waited for fulfillment, it seemed as though He was working wonders everywhere except in my own life, church, and relationships. I stumbled over the temptation to envy others’ blessings, and fell deep into the rabbit hole of questioning His goodness and my identity in Him.
It was after years of wrestling through cycles of promise and disappointment that He turned my attention to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The Israelites directly witnessed miracle after miracle, provision after provision, yet “…they forgot the many times God showed them His love…” (Psalm 106:7). Their journey should have only taken 11 days, but by the time they reached the Promised Land, they lacked the faith to claim it, and instead an entire generation wandered in the wilderness
I realized I was looking into a mirror.
I was just as forgetful and “stiff-necked” as the Israelites, forgetting His great work in my life thus far and refusing to trust and move forward as He had called me. As long as I was trapped in the wilderness of my mind, I would never step foot into the Promised Land. If I questioned His goodness at every turn, especially when circumstances seemed unfavorable and difficult, I would not be ready to faithfully steward His gifts.
If we find we are in the wilderness, I wonder if it isn’t because God wants to set a foundation of faith and trust when we cannot see – a faith that can declare with full assurance that He is good and trustworthy no matter the circumstance.
That He is perfect in all of His ways.
That He is for us, not against us.
That although our enemies may look like giants, He is greater still.
I wonder how different things would be if, by the renewing of our minds, we came to see our time in the wilderness less as a dreaded season of hiddenness and more as an invitation to deeper intimacy where God wants to break off orphan habits and thought patterns in exchange for the truth of our identity in Him.
Joshua and Caleb were men who, like so many heroes of the Bible, “believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises” (Luke 1:45). While everyone else cowered in fear at the prospect of claiming the land God had told them to possess, they were able to say in full faith, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” They knew who God was and trusted in His promise in face of the challenges that seemed insurmountable. Their inner faith drove the way they viewed their circumstances so they were not overcome by them, and in the end, were the only two original Israelites whom God allowed to finally step into the Promised Land. Yet somehow, I wonder if they would have been just as content if they didn’t live to see the promise fulfilled – because they lived inside God’s promise long before they stepped foot into Canaan. They knew in their core that God was with them and that He is good.
As I enter into my 30’s this year, I have decided to go forward with my eyes fixed on the Lord instead of on my circumstances. As I choose to worship and find refuge in Him especially when my flesh wants to fall into discouragement and despair, I find God opening doors to His goodness. And in His time, I have been finding the Promised Land stretched out before me. My heart has opened up to love on my students more freely. Though our community is small, we have truly become family. Despite my bout with postpartum depression after my first daughter, God has been growing my heart as a mother in ways I never thought possible. And though I never had a creative side growing up, God has unlocked a passion for photography and opened doors to pursue it as a blessing for others. He is truly a God who “makes a way in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). Yet even if these may all fade away, I will still choose to say it is well with my soul because He is good and trustworthy. Amen.