“How long, O Lord?!” I prayed through tears over my son after a long and painful battle with him. I forced myself to pray despite the anger and frustration stirring in my heart. He burst into tears and cried, “I don’t know why I am like this! I don’t want to act this way, but I just can’t stop!” Jesus softened my angry heart in that moment and opened my eyes to see the torment and pain inside of his little mind. Instead of anger, I felt my heart breaking within me.
The fresh realization of my helplessness to rescue my son from his illness hit me like a ton of bricks.
As I held my hurting and confused little boy, I began to plead from the deepest parts of my soul on behalf of him, my family, and myself.
“Why, O Lord, have you withheld answers? I know you have authority and are powerful enough to heal my son. I feel fear creeping in, threatening to destroy my faith and hope in your promises. My flesh is so incredibly weak, but by your grace, my spirit is willing. May your strong hand defeat what threatens to destroy my son and my family. If you choose to bring healing on this earth and grant us our heart’s desires, we will praise and give glory to your name alone. But if this illness leads to my worst fears becoming reality, don’t waste a moment of the pain. Give me strength to bring you glory by praising your name. Amen.”
I left my son’s room feeling broken. I wondered how I could keep going without letting fear for my son, my other kids, my marriage, and the future overtake me.
Three Lessons from the Wilderness
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the Israelite’s journey in the wilderness. They too faced fears and circumstances that threatened their lives. The following are three lessons I’ve learned from the Israelites’ response to fearful circumstances, as the Egyptians were closing in on them at the Red Sea.
They focused on what seemed impossible rather than on the past faithfulness of God to overcome the impossible.
“For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:14)
The Israelites had just seen God do miracle after miracle in Egypt to free them from the hand of Pharaoh. As soon as they reached their first trial, instead of reminding themselves of the power of God they had seen firsthand, they panicked. God’s people decided this was an impossible situation that they would never survive.
I have often been tempted to respond the same way, after diets, special treatments, dozens of tests, medicine, vitamins, and 10 different doctors could not provide the answers we’ve been desperately seeking. Healing is looking more impossible every day, but we can choose to focus on what seems impossible and give way to fear or we can remind ourselves of God’s proven faithfulness and power from the past.
God has protected and provided for our family multiple ways over the last few years. He has given my husband and me an increased capacity to let go, trust, and love our son beyond our own strength. He has surrounded us with an incredible support system of family, friends, and the church. He has also proven himself faithful throughout the Bible and in many others’ lives who have gone before us. There is nothing impossible for the God we serve.
We, who are facing challenges that seem like too much to handle, must remind ourselves of the powerful God we serve. If he gave his only Son to die for sinners like us, we can trust that he is for us and sovereign over any circumstance. If he could part the Red Sea, he is strong enough to handle anything we may face.
They focused on the threat rather than the promises of God.
“I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and Ipromisethat I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to… a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:16-17)
God promised the Israelites that he would bring them to the land flowing with milk and honey. At the first big test they faced, they doubted God’s faithfulness. But God never promised that the journey would be easy. I used to be quick to judge the faithlessness of the Israelites, but in reality, I can easily see myself responding the same way.
There are circumstances we face that may threaten our very lives or, at least, the lives we always hoped we would live. It’s challenging enough to have faith when we face daily disappointments, but when the core of our faith is put to the test, how do we respond? How do we fight fear if a biopsy comes back positive, if our family loses its main income, if a lifelong dream is dashed in an instant, or if our child is born with a birth defect?
We fight unbelief by locking our focus on the promises of God. They are all over Scripture, and it would take a whole book to cover them all. But here are a few that have strengthened me:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)
“Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:6-7)
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
And finally, the promise that God gave the Israelites as they stood in terror in front of the Red Sea:
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians who you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent…I will get glory over pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13-14, 17b-18a)
We can trust in the promises of God. If he has allowed hard things in our lives, then we can trust he will be faithful to use it for our good and for his glory.
They decided it was better to live in slavery with a false sense of comfort and security than to trust God’s promises in the wilderness and experience true freedom and future blessing.
If I had been given the choice to have the life I’d longed for and expected or the life God has allowed, I would have chosen what my flesh desired. However, if that were the case, I would have been ignorantly content to live in bondage to the many hidden sins of selfishness, pride, and self-sufficiency lurking in my heart. I believe God’s purposes in this are far bigger than just my own heart, but in his goodness and grace he has gradually changed my desires, opened my eyes, and freed me from false satisfaction.
While I have no guarantee that my son will be healed on this earth or that I will ever get to experience the family life my heart longs for, I do not need to fear today or the future. Neither do you. If we surrender all that we are and cling to truth, some of the greatest treasures and mysteries of Christ will be found in the most trying wilderness experiences.
As you reflect on a current or past wilderness journey, can you see blessings that have been a byproduct of it?
But we must first see the value in letting go of the false sense of comfort we tend to desire. We must instead find greater value in trusting Christ in the wilderness where we’ll experience true freedom.