The world changed this week. Dramatically. The epidemic has done something not thought possible–put the nasty presidential race on the back burner. The press just has found other ways to be nasty to anyone who doesn’t agree with them (and that is every media outlet–foreign and abroad).
Right now funny memes are everywhere about the virus, and the ridiculous run on toilet paper. But will that good humor remain? Humor tends to last for initial stages, but then it turns to anger and cynacism. Hopefully that won’t be the case but it seems to frequently take that path.
As this is all unfolding I find myself in the middle of Numbers 11 where the Israelite community is going through hardship. They are out in the desert in “the middle,” that uncomfortable place of having left something but not yet arrived at the next thing. The middle is the toughest. So much so that I’ve written about it previously (click here).
As a world we are in the middle. Having left our state of “normal” and not yet arrived at “new normal.”
The Israelites did not handle the middle very well. Some people started complaining and it became infectious. It wasn’t hard to do as their diet in Egypt had been pleasant. But their diet in the middle was the same thing every single day, every single meal. It never changed. It wasn’t that it tasted bad, but it was an endless monomeal.And they complained bitterly.
The middle unfortunately is not a place of comfort. But is a common place.
The ministry I used to work for tells the story of when they were first pioneering their ministry. They really had no money but they did have an ocean nearby. So every meal for three months was blue marlin. That was their only meal besides what fruit they could pluck from the trees.
The middle is frequently a place of extended suffering and hardship. For whatever reason, it just is.
We often find ourselves in the middle. God may have done something great or we may have left something bad, yet we’re not to the “next thing.”
Granted some people think all of life is in the middle. Parents can wrongly assume they are always in the middle. “If we just get the kids potty trained…when we just get them to school…when they just get a little bit older…” This kind of thinking is not the middle. This is just life.
The middle is the place of significant transition. The Israelites having left Egypt and the honeymoon was no gone were in the middle.
And instead of trusting God in this season, they complained that it wasn’t comfortable enough. They were already dragging their elderly and their kids through a scorching hot desert, couldn’t the Lord at least provide them some protein? It’s great and all that he provided a cloud for their shade at day and a fire at night for their warmth, that his presence hovered with a cloud over the tabernacle to direct them, and that he provided manna for them when there was no food and water where there was no water. But what about one more comfort? What about protein?! We really need it don’t we Lord?
Perhaps if they had asked with the right spirit it would have been different. But a few rabble-rousers complained and the others joined in. It wasn’t a seeking the Lord with gratitude. It was complaining with ingratitude.
Think for a moment of how many prayers are about our comfort. “Lord, finances now!” “Lord, help with relationships now!” It’s Ok to ask these things, but how we ask matters.
I’ve been convicted of that lately as tax season has hit. I have been fretting and worry about how much I’ll need to pay and where will I get the money to do so. So I’ve been approaching the Lord with the “Help” mentality, and not stopping to praise him for all the ways he has provided. All the times he has taken care of me.
“With thanksgiving present your request to God” (Php 4:8).
In the beginning of trials we tend to joke and have a good attitude. In the beginning thanksgiving isn’t so hard. But when we begin to experience the word “long-suffering,” that’s when we are truly tested to find what’s in our heart.
Will he find us faithful? And even grateful?