When God Takes You the Long Way
We can never avoid process. Ever.
In life, it is inevitable that we will go through seasons where there is no easy fix, no quick way out, and no “Get Me Out Of Here” button.
Everything goes through process. Everything is made through process.
Most would agree our “processes” tend to take place within months, years, maybe decades. But imagine having to go through the SAME process for 40 years.
4 0 stinkin’ years. Shoot my foot—I couldn’t.
Sadly, some folks DID have to live my nightmare. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years with no hope of ever reaching their destination. Due to their disobedience to God’s directives for them, His discipline was to cause them to wander around for 40 years and never enter the Promised Land. Instead, the next generation of Israelites would be the ones to take the land.
Here’s where it gets me.
How would you feel if it took you forty years to walk… 240 miles? To put it in perspective, it would be equivalent to a four hour road trip by car.
Turns out, the journey to the Promised Land was only supposed to take 11 days, a 240 mile walk on foot (considering they had herds and thousands of people). Instead it took them four decades. (Deuteronomy 1:2)
When talking about this journey, it’s easy to *face palm* and give the Israelites grief for their unfortunate 40 year detour due to disobeying God. But, what if there was more to the wandering than just punishment? What if God caused them to wander not to make them sorry, but to make them holy?
After being slaves for hundreds of years, these Israelites were totally accustomed to Egyptian ways: good food, daily routine, and gods they could see (idols). This life was their norm. Yet, when God delivered them from the Egyptians, He continued to remind them they didn’t have to be slaves any longer. Instead, they could be children of God if they would simply obey Him. However, as God tried to lead them into the good land He promised them, they continued begging for their old life back:
“The Israelites said… “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”” –Exodus 16:3
God offered them this promise of a good land to look forward to on this journey, but instead of having a “promise” mentality, they chose to have a “slave” mentality. Yes, God had indeed delivered them out of Egypt for good, but it would take 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites.
Getting rid of a deep rooted identity crisis requires time. For the Israelites, their identity was rooted in being a slave, not just to human masters, but to sin and their own desires. Therefore, as they journeyed with God, this “slave mentality” was continually exposed as God called them to step out in faith and trust Him. In response, they repeatedly resorted back to old ways: complaining, idolatry, and stubbornness. Yet, in these forty years of wandering, God was able to refine their identities and show them how to walk in the promise. In their case, they would never see the Promise Land, but they could hold to the promise that they served a God who would be with them and stay committed to them.
What if we viewed our process in the same way?
Maybe this struggle that seems forever long could actually be the very thing that draws us closest to the heart of God? What if this season of waiting and long-suffering isn’t purposed to make us miserable, but to refine our hearts and deeply root our identities in Christ? When you feel like God is taking you the “long way”, consider what He might be trying to do in you in the process.
No matter the longevity, severity or condition of our struggle, there is one thing we can be certain of: He is with us– in the ugly, the plentiful, and the barren. This season will not crush us, He will not forget us, and His presence will not leave us.
The dictionary defines the word “process” so beautifully. I just love it.
Process: The condition of being carried on
As we wander, it’s crucial to know that even in the “desert” seasons, we are not deserted. As we journey, we don’t have to weather the wait in our own strength, but rather, in His. In those times we feel like we’re taking the long way home, we can know that His grace, His mercy and His strong hand will carry us through.
As you wander, remember your position: carried.
If you missed the introduction to this series, click here!