Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Israelites 'n' Me

"Why couldn't the reprieve have lasted a little longer? " I was throwing myself a five-star pity party, confetti and all.  We had finished a much needed week just the two of us, the kids farmed out to grandparents.  No sooner had the little one gotten back, and she was complaining of a sick stomach.  I watched the days' plans of me and sunny berry fields dissolve as she curled up in bed.  It seemed like all the relaxation and rejuvenation of the past week vanished in an instant, and I was frustrated.  Yet in those frustrated moments as I whined in the shower (all the while knowing I should be surrendering my plans to Him), I recognized something in myself.  During the vacations of life, it's easy to get caught up in the fun and ease and put God on the back shelf.  Frighteningly easy.

As I was working on my summer study of Nehemiah this morning, it struck me how the Israelites suffered the same malady.  Nehemiah 9 gives a rich, concise history of God's people, a history that seems to be a cycle of God's blessing, Israel's rebellion, God's discipline, Israel's repentance, God's forgiveness and blessing, Israel's rebellion .... repeat.  Verse 28 says, " soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in Your sight..."

As much as I don't want to see myself in that cycle, I admit I can.  I'd love to say that I feel closest to God during times of ease and smooth sailing.  Sadly that often is not the case.  While there are easy times in which I am overwhelmed by God's provision, rest, reprieve, I usually walk closest to God when times are challenging because I'm forced to press into Him.  And somehow He miraculously infuses a sweetness into trials that makes those difficult times stand highlighted in my memory far more than the periods of calm waters and favorable winds.

Perhaps God does not allow the reprieve to linger for my benefit.  Perhaps it is one of the mysteries of His sovereign love for me.  As contradictory as it sounds, He's doing me a favor.  Protecting me from the pride (Deut 8:12-14) that lurks behind a life of ease.  In his sovereign and omniscient way, He's balancing mountains and valleys to strengthen my spiritual muscle, to shape this lump of clay to resemble His Son.

Somehow I think when we read about the abundant life Jesus promises, we see it through the lens of American culture, lumping together Jesus' abundant life and the fulfillment of the American Dream.  Surely, in so doing, we commit a grave error, one that results in some measure of doubt and second-guessing when trials come and we're left reeling.  We'd be doing ourselves a favor if we soon welcomed the speed-bumps.  Like a splash of lemon juice to a berry pie, those sour times accentuate the sweetness of God in our lives, delivering true abundance.

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