Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Impatient in the wilderness

"From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way." Numbers 21:4 (ESV)

This is the verse which struck me as I was sitting in a meeting last week and we were looking at adult education material. This is actually the beginning of the story of the story about the snakes and the bronze serpent if you're having difficulty placing it, and it was that part of the story that the materials focused on. But I couldn't really get past the word impatient, because I realized that was what I have been feeling.

The Israelites did have a tough lot at this point in their history. They were wandering around the wilderness, seemingly endlessly, there was little water and they didn't like the food. Life just didn't seem to be very good for them at the moment. Of course, there were all of those miracles they had witnessed just a book previously, but that didn't change the food they had now. And so they spoke against God.

It made me wonder if I had speaking against God. I have been feeling a bit in the wilderness recently with my boy. It seems we have been wandering about rather endlessly and have very  little progress to show for it. Some days are just hard. I am weary. I feel impatient with what God has planned for all of us.

Yesterday, I happened to notice a friend's Bible was opened to the book of Lamentations. I will admit that I haven't really paid much attention to Lamentations... I couldn't even find it in my own Bible at first and had to look it up in the table of contents. But maybe I should pay a little more attention to it. If the Israelites in Numbers were an example of how not to suffer adversity, then the writer of Lamentations, writing in response to the fall of Jerusalem at the beginning of the exile, is an example of how to pray when all feels hopeless.

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul,
'therefore I will hope in Him.'
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." Lamentations 3:22-27 (ESV)

Being impatient is, at its root, distrust. It indicates that we think something isn't going to plan; something is wrong. We worry that God has forgotten us; that He doesn't really have things under control. Being impatient says that I think I know better how things should go. It is sort of a sneaky way of sinning against God because we don't immediately recognize it as such. We just want to skip to the good parts. We forget it is through the hard stuff that God forms us into the people He wants us to be; that to skip those parts would get us to the 'good stuff' unprepared.

And so I will wait. And try to be patient.
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