As a Christian, we've heard this story a thousand times. The Israelites, God's Chosen People - special, marked, loved, cared for - were exiled into the desert where, although not ideal, God took care of them. We learned how daily God performed miracles just for them! He made manna (bread) fall from the sky so they could eat and he brought water out of a rock to quench their thirst!
But they weren't thrilled about it.
They whined. They complained. They felt they deserved more. They forgot to say thank you.
And, as every good Christian girl and boy does, we reacted in shock! How could they not see their God providing for them?! How could they be so ungrateful? How could they lose faith in their great and holy Father? How could they forget who He was and how much He loved them?
We would never act like that! We would learn from them! We would not let down our God with our short memories of who He is and what He promises to His people! We would be better than the Isrealites, we promised.
Friends, we haven't even been in the desert for 40 days. (That was the amount of time Jesus spent in the desert. Remember? He went without food and water and he was completely isolated except for the presence of the enemy. Literally.)
You guys! How can we be the light of the church during such a time as this if we're posting our complaints about how we shouldn't have to spend all this time teaching kids and doing school work? How it's ridiculous that restaurants are closed? Or complaining about how we haven't had a good night out with friends in ages. Or how unfair it is that our family doesn't get to go on the vacation we booked before a global pandemic thwarted our plans?
How can we convince others that God will provide for them if we can't see how God is providing for us right now?
How are we showing how great our God is when we spend more time arguing and defending politics than we do sharing God's grace and mercies of the day?
How do we share God's love and light and faithfulness and goodness and wonderfulness and powerfulness and beauty and greatness when all we're doing is whining that we deserve more than the pitiful manna piling up around our feet?
We're moving - whether we realize it our not. Our thoughts, our words, the habits we're forming - they're either moving us closer to God or closer to the enemy.
We're not sitting still through this. We're moving - whether we realize it our not. Our thoughts, our words, the habits we're forming - they're either moving us closer to God or closer to the enemy. And it's all our choice. All our doing. All our decision making. And most of us can't even see how far away from God we've actually become.
This is our desert. And why not? What makes us so special that we wouldn't have a challenge? It's not the way of our people; of God's people. God has never disillusioned us. He told us straight out that our lives here would not be easy.
John 16:33 (NIV) tells us what Jesus said. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The Message describes it like this: "I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace." Are we showing the world how at peace with God we truly are? Do we feel unshakable and assured through our faith in God? Or are we filled with worry and fear and doubt?
How many stories have been passed down through the generations, how many scriptures have been shared, how many Sunday School lessons and church sermons have illustrated the fact that God's way is not easy - but that he HAS a Promised Land in store for us!
That he never leaves our side.
That He's with us in the battle.
That we're not forgotten.
That He will give us the strength we need to endure for one more day.
As Christians, our greatest battle isn't COVID-19. It isn't being laid off. It isn't the dwindling check book and the empty pantry. It isn't hours of school work battles around the kitchen table. Our greatest struggle is with our patience in God and our gratitude to God.
We're not forgotten by God. But we have been forgetting Him.