Hope in the Wilderness

Well crap, I thought as I sat near the back of the church auditorium. It was one of those mornings where I had gone to church hoping, praying, to get word from God about a particular situation. And on that Sunday morning, I got what I wanted – only it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. My pastor spoke the exact words that I loathed, because they told me this situation wasn’t going to resolve any time soon.

Ok God, I really wanted to hear from you today, but seriously?

I’ve been dealing with a situation for several months now. Circumstances have made it very clear to me that it’s time to make a change. So I’ve been working, struggling, and grappling with this issue. Every day I’ve tried to do something to change the circumstances, and every single stinking Sunday sermon over the last few months has told me to chill out and let God work. Dangit.

This entire time, I’ve been impatient. I’m like Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I want an oompa loompa NOOOOOWWWW. I’ve made up my mind to change the situation, to move on to bigger and better things, so let’s get a move on. What are you waiting for, God? I’m ready…I think as I tap my foot impatiently.

But here’s the thing: that’s not how this works. You see, God’s got a timeline and much to my chagrin, it doesn’t match up with my own. I find myself in an uncomfortable place. I frankly feel stuck, and I feel lost. Like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. It was time for them to leave Egypt…but it wasn’t time for them to enter the Promised Land for 40 years. (Dear Lord, PLEASE don’t let this take 40 years.)

Wandering and Waiting

It begs the question – what do you do in the wilderness? For Israel, they just walked and walked and walked around the same few hundred square miles for 40 years. 40 YEARS. They looped around the same sand dune, wore the same shoes, and ate the same weird manna bread every single day. They wandered, and they waited. (Ok, ok, they complained a lot and tried to take matters into their own hands too…but mostly they waited.)

I hate waiting. HATE. I’m that person whose normal walking pace is akin to a power walker, because I’ve got somewhere to be, so why am I wasting time getting from here to there? I take the most direct route and don’t stop to smell the roses or check out the scenery. I’m on a mission to get somewhere.

But now I wait.

wilderness

Waiting and Hoping

There are really very few things that you can do while you wait on God to move. You can try to ram the door open yourself, but all that’ll get you is a headache. You can try to turn around and go back to where you came from, but the only thing behind you is centuries of slavery and Pharaoh’s army hot on your tail. Or you can continue moving forward one day at a time, keeping your eyes fixed on the Lord and clinging to the hope that He has already brought the victory.

Nothing about hope is easy. Hope is far away; it’s hard to see, a tiny speck off in the distance. It’s much easier to focus on the challenges; heck, they’re right in front of you rearing their ugly head and breathing down your neck.

Nothing about hope is quick. It’s slow. It’s in the future. I mean, that’s kind of the point – if hope were already accomplished, we’d call it “now” and not “hope.”

But everything about hope is necessary. Hope forces you to question what God is doing and really wrestle with your feelings of doubt and insecurity about His plan. It makes you look back at previous situations and recognize He brought you through each one at exactly the right time in a way that was in your best interest. And once you’ve wrestled and remembered, hope gives you the strength to keep moving forward for one more day – even if it’s past that same sand dune and you have to eat that same stupid manna bread one more time.

Hope as an Anchor

The thing about hoping in God is that it isn’t just hope. It’s reality. It’s a promise. It has already been accomplished, because it’s based on God’s word and His character. So when God makes you a promise, you can hope with confidence, because if God has promised it, He has already brought it to pass. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

It’s a lot easier said than done; trust me, I know. But if you need me, I’ll be over here in the wilderness – wandering, waiting, and hoping.

Anchor


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