“Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place?” (Numbers 20:5, NLT).
Recently, my church family has been exploring the theme of transition. I was grateful to preach one of the messages about the discipline of waiting. If you’ve ever felt like you’re in a terrible situation, transitioned from one job to the next, waited to hear from a potential employer, doctor’s diagnosis, or continued in position/circumstance while hoping for a change, continue reading.
This morning, as I began my daily Scripture reading, I was in Numbers chapter twenty. Granted, there’s not too many great application accounts in Numbers, but chapter twenty is a gold-mine of reflection! Moses endures three great life-losses; he loses his sister Miriam, his brother Aaron, and he’s rejected from entering the Promised Land—all within this chapter! There’s a sermon for each of those topics, but that’s not our illuminating nugget of light.
As I was reading, Israel’s question to Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place?” (Num. 20:5), it reverberated in my mind. I began to pray through this verse. As I reflected, I began to think—Israel doesn’t understand that where they are is not the end game. This isn’t their home. The desert is not the Promised Land of milk, honey, and blessing. All that they can see is their current situation—they forgot about the promise.
Better not bitter
I think it’s important to realize (at least for me) that we’re on a journey with the Lord. Where he has us, and where he’s taking us are two different things. For the record, while I’m elated to be in the position that I am currently in, that was not always the case. Many times, I searched and sought out new positions, was rejected by employers, and questioned God as the Israelites, “Why have you brought me to this terrible place”?
Sometimes life is hard. So, I wonder how many of us might be feeling bitter because our circumstances are not better? As I reflected on this passage, I was reminded that the desert is not the Promised Land. Israel was grumbling about the journey, about the process to get to the destination. That’s when the light bulb went off. The journey is not the destination. The destination is the destination.
Sometimes we may feel like God is not answering our prayers because we’re enduring a life situation that seems grueling and draining. I know that the job-search experience can definitely seem like a desert experience. But, so is any transition-period. Any time that we associate our current situation as an end-objective in life, we have neglected the power and process of walking with God.
As the Apostle Paul reminded the Philippian churches, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Phil. 1:6). Wherever you may be, it is not the end-game. Transitions are part of the process.
Hence, that “terrible place” that you currently perceive to be in, maybe that’s the part of the journey that will end up being your most productive and learned. But, let’s be honest, no one enjoys the desert-periods of life. Truly, they feel “terrible” and no amount of encouraging words can pay bills, or change specific circumstances.
Yet, if we can change our perceptions, we can change our motivation to endure. For me, I have to remind myself that God is in control. He is guiding and leading—and He knows best. The goal is never the desert, but the desert is a training ground and part of the process.
As Exodus reminds us, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt” (Exo. 13:17). Battles and deserts are part of the transitioning process.
Regardless of the Israeli spies rejecting God’s sovereignty (Num. 13), the desert was always part of the transition and never the end-result. So, what are your takeaways from this message?
Do you perceive that you’re in a “terrible-place”? What can you learn from it?
How can you trust and serve God where you are, so that when you arrive at the destination, He receives the glory?