How do you survive the desert? When you feel like God is dragging you on a wild goose chase?
How do you survive the desert? When you feel like God is dragging you on a wild goose chase? When the only thing getting you through each day is you telling yourself that there’s a purpose for all of it, but you still find that ‘finally’ is another step away even though you thought you could almost touch it?
You find the answer in Jacob’s story. Just when you think God is going to lead him into the reason for his wandering, you find that Jacob spends a few ‘pointless’ years wandering some more and living a simple life before God calls him back home.
It’s not the most encouraging or romantic thing to read, and at one point Jacob even wrestles with God. Reading through the wandering, I wondered if I would have the same patience or faith as Jacob. I know I haven’t in the past.
So what was his secret?
He built altars in the desert.
It wasn’t about how God would show up, it was about how He was, and who He is. The hope doesn’t have to be anchored in the ending because our Jesus is timeless. The difference between Jacob and I is that Jacob didn’t keep saying, “He’s going to show up.”
He was praising God in the desert instead of looking for the way out.
Am I living so much in expectancy that I have forgotten how to see God in front of me?
Am I surviving on what God will do or what He is doing?
Am I too busy resenting Him for not moving yet or do I see the desert as Him moving me closer to His promise every day?
I just know this – I want to be a better altar builder.
“I can do it”, he thought to himself, wiping the sweat off his forehead. He stood in the long queue, waiting for his turn. He looked at the people in front of him – he knew this was going to be a long day. “I can do this”, he whispered to himself.
“I can do it”, he thought to himself, wiping the sweat off his forehead. He stood in the long queue, waiting for his turn.
His mind rushed through all the tasks that he had to finish for the day – pay the bills, fix the car, pick his daughter up from school and cook dinner, he wondered how he was going to get it all done on time; he wondered how he was going to pay for it all.
He looked at the people in front of him – he knew this was going to be a long day. “I can do this”, he whispered to himself. An hour passed, and the queue had hardly moved. Slowly, worry began to rise. Wiping the sweat off his forehead again, he calculated once more if he had enough money to make all the necessary payments for the day.
His thoughts were suddenly disturbed by the vibrations in his pocket. His phone began to ring – it was his dad. He answered his phone, hesitating.
“Hey dad, I’m a little busy right now…I’ll call you back”, he said, hurriedly.
But before he could cut the call, his dad replied – “Son, you seem tense. Is everything alright?”
“Yes dad, I’m fine. I’ve got to go.”
“Son, if you need help, you know all you’ve got to do is ask, right?”
“I said I’m fine dad”, he replied, his worry slowly turning to impatience.
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do”, came the calm patient reply.
Still impatient, he cut the call. “I can do this”, he declared, “I can do this myself! I’m not a child anymore. I’m independent.”
He reflected back at all the times his dad had tried to butt in, even when it was unnecessary.
He didn’t need the help. He knew what he had to do. He just wanted to be independent; he wanted to be free.
His mind traced back to the time he was a little child, an incident when he had tried to reach out for his favorite sweets kept on the top shelf in the kitchen. He remembered how he had stretched as much as he could, but it hadn’t been enough. He remembered how his father had tried to interfere then and how he had said he didn’t need his help, how he could accomplish the task himself. He was determined…
But he remembered also, that he had not accomplished the task, that he hadn’t been able to get the sweets – and at the end of the day, he had been left empty handed, frustrated and hungry. He remembered…
He looked at the queue again; and like a bullet, it struck him that he wasn’t going to be able to make it through the day by himself. He did not have the money, he did not have the time; he did not have the energy.
It hit him that there was a long impossible day ahead of him and he was relying on a strength that was not going to be enough – his own.
His hands shaking, he made the call to his father.
As soon as the phone rang, his dad picked up the call
“Hello? Son? Tell me”, his dad said.
But he couldn’t reply. His lips were trembling. He began to weep.
The tears fell on the floor as he cried his frustration out.
Slowly, he managed to let out the words, “I need you.”
“I know”, came the gentle reply, “don’t worry about it. I know what you need. I’ll get it all done. Don’t worry about a thing.”
As they disconnected the call, he finally felt peace rushing through him – peace that he hadn’t felt in a long time.
He felt like a heavy burden had lifted off his shoulders, knowing that he didn’t have to bear it anymore, that it was taken by someone wiser, someone greater – someone who could get the work done. He knew that he didn’t have to rely on his own strength anymore – he found one that was stronger.
He remembered all the times he had refused to take his father’s help, believing he was independent, seeking freedom.
But the reality had finally dawned upon him – that independence is not the same as freedom.
He finally learnt what his father had been trying to teach him all along; that contrary to what the world believes, there is freedom in surrender.
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