Sunday, March 2, 2014

Patient Endurance

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains!
Psalm 121:1-2

My son Kenney the other day surprised me with:  “Two weeks ago, we thought about going to Vegas and getting married.  We are tired of living on campus, tired of living in a dorm with all these other people around, and of course, we hate to say good-bye every night.  But after thinking about it, we decided to wait.” 

Relieved they didn’t elope, I do get it; it’s not easy to wait when you’re madly in love.  My husband Mike and I had a 3-month engagement for this reason!  Looking back, having so little time must have been tough on our folks.  I was clueless about what they did in such a short period of time until my own daughter married; we needed every bit of her 6-month engagement to get ready!

In the book of Exodus, we’re given a glimpse of how difficult it was for the Israelites to wait for their new beginning with God.  In the Old Testament, Israel is referred to as a bride and God’s covenant with them as a marriage.  As was custom for Jewish weddings in this period of time, God as the Father of the groom (Jesus Christ) extended a proposal through Moses to the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt.  ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”  (For more, see the last post:  Chosen)

Anxious to leave the captivity and suffering of their past behind, the Israelites enthusiastically accepted the invitation.  However the willing bride was ill prepared for what happened next.  Enraged at the thought of losing control and ownership of his slaves, Pharaoh the King of Egypt shook his fist at God and tightened his grip on the Israelites.  The result was increased hardship and suffering.

So how did the Israelites deal with their disappointment?  Exodus 6:9 says,“ Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.”  The once willing bride couldn’t embrace the message of God’s love anymore; painful circumstances had cast a dark shadow over this truth.

Sometimes, contending for a relationship with God requires you endure unexplained suffering.  Like the Israelites, you have been born into a world that is ruled by God’s enemy.  Pharaoh gives us a picture of Satan who is an evil, harsh, demanding taskmaster.  Just as God has good plans for those he created, Satan has evil plans.  His goal is to “steal, kill and destroy”(John 10:10). When you hear the message of God’s love and respond, the enemy is naturally threatened!  He doesn’t want to lose you or give up on his plans for you.   There will be a fight because you are worth fighting for.

Many times, in a spiritual battle like this, the very thing we don’t want to do – listen - is what we need the most.  Last night on my way home from dinner with a small group of My Sistahs, I found myself discouraged.  A conversation we had stirred up some pain I’m experiencing over several key relationships in my life.  Why does life have to be so hard?   For years, I’ve done the best I can to obey God, hoping it would lead to restoration and peace.  Instead, I don’t see progress.  Like the Israelites, the faith I once had that God could do the impossible in this situation is all but gone.  Listening to my friends encourage me to walk in love didn’t feel good; I wanted to give up instead.  Sometimes letting a dream die is easier than living in the pain of hope that doesn’t materialize.  

With unwanted tears streaming down my face, I was bombarded by thoughts of truth.  It didn’t matter if I wanted to listen or not, God was in the car with me and reminded me of promises He has spoken…”in the shadow of my wings”, “the strong arm of the Lord is mighty to save”, “wait and see”, and “be still and know that I am God”.  It occurs to me that God is working on my behalf even when I can’t see it.  The outcome is not up to me; I just have to be patient and continue in God’s strength to obey.  Hebrews 10:36 says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.   Then you will receive all that he has promised.” 

Maybe you too are in a difficult chapter of life and discouraged by the direction things are heading.  Can you embrace the fact that God is fighting for you and working in ways you can’t see and don’t understand?  Will you continue to stay rooted in the truth that you are His chosen and beloved one?  Remember, our story isn’t over yet.  One day this chapter will end, and we will get to turn the page and begin a new one titled: “Victory!” 

“In that day you will sing……
 See, God has come to save me.
    I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The LORD GOD is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.”

Isa 12:1-2

-- Laurel Bahr

1 comment:

  1. Sister, this post really spoke to me. I have been struggling lately with being discouraged about my life, work, and faith. After a long year of several health issues that have dramatically changed my life in every area, discouragement has set in my heart. While I have certain hope that I will fully recover from my health issues, not being able to do things well as I use to. Thanks for this reminder that God is not done with me.


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