Monday, October 8, 2007

The Roundabout Way

Have you ever felt a restlessness inside you? Something you can't quite describe but you know it's real?

A friend recently asked me that question. I didn't even have to pause. "Yes," I answered. "Absolutely."

It's a feeling you can't quite identify. It won't be named. You're not exactly sad, but you're not joyful either. You're not anxious, but neither are you at real peace. So much is going "right" in your life and yet there's an emptiness, a void, that begs to be filled.

"That's where I am right now," she said. We went on to talk about what being "there" means.

When I'm in those desert places--and that's what they feel like--I've asked God why I'm there. Rarely do I get an answer, much less a reason. So I push on. Push on through the responsibilities we all have. Push on through the writing when every word and sentence sounds like drivel. Push on through meeting life's obligations, searching for God's face, waiting for his voice, and immersing myself in his Word.

And during one of those desert times, I came across this verse:

"When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness..." (Exodus 13:17-18a)

I've learned (and occasionally have to remind myself) to view these desert times as training grounds, as detours meant for my betterment--however difficult or long. God equips me during those "roundabout ways through the wilderness." It's not pleasant. I don't enjoy it, but I'm better for it in the end. I'm more trusting of him. I'm more pliant because of the wandering. I'm more the putty in his hands that I should be.

I have no idea if any of you have been in desert times in your life recently, or if you're there right now. But if you are, I hope you'll find encouragement in knowing that God has you (and me) there for an eternal purpose, that he's guiding our steps, and--though it may not feel like it at the time--we're still en route to the Promised Land.
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