In my journey with the Lord, I’ve endured much, overcome much, and suffered much. Of late, Proverbs 13:12 seemed to be the banner over my life. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick….” That song beat in my head like a hammer. The ring of it, in clear peals confirmed its sturdy truth.
There’ve been days when I didn’t want to get up and fight. Days when I prayed earnestly, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus,” and days when I battled negative thoughts in such multitude that I became physically weary. If hope is deferred too long, we can give up, go back to the wilderness, and wither to death—a fact I've shared with God on more than one occasion.
This struggle puts me in mind of the children of Israel. The biblical account of the original generation coming out of bondage in Egypt to freedom in the wilderness is a striking one. Within weeks of being set free, they got close enough to the Promised Land to actually touch it—to touch it! Yet, because of their stinking attitudes, they died in the desert.
Many valuable lessons can be learned here.
One: Attitude can kill. To come out of the wilderness, you need the attitude of Caleb and Joshua. Of Caleb, the Bible says that he “had a different spirit.” Caleb and Joshua were the only two who had the right attitude. They experienced the same slavery, the same wilderness existence, and the same miracles. Yet they were worlds apart in the way they perceived these events, and the way they experienced God Himself. They knew (because they knew God) that they were well-able to overcome and enter into the Promised Land.
Two: Attitude impacts community. Because of the wilderness-mind of the eight spies, the entire nation (including Caleb and Joshua) were sentenced to penance in the wilderness until the original generation died off—forty years of misery because they doubted God and complained. They refused to set their minds on their new life, new freedom, and new possibilities.
But that is only half of the story. The second half of Proverbs 13:12 states, “…but when desire comes, it is the tree of life.”
At the end of forty years, God again began moving His people into their inheritance. This time, it was different. This generation received an attitude adjustment, and onward they went into the Promised Land. Onward they went out of the wilderness. This last portion finally hit me between the eyes: You can come out of the wilderness. Sometimes it feels like you’ve been there so long that there aren’t other options. Not so. The wilderness was never meant to be permanent. It’s a phase, a stop-gap, a temporary lodging, a bridge from slavery to abundant life.
Key things to consider if you want out of the wilderness and into the inheritance God has promised: 1) Attitude changes must occur, and not intermittently. Strive to saturate your thinking with scriptures, verses, and the promises of God until you are meditating on them throughout the day—every day. 2) Prepare yourself to move when God blows the trumpet. Many sit around the campfire, waiting, twiddling their thumbs, and thinking good thoughts, but do not actually prepare to exit. Be ready, watching, and faithful in letting God develop your character as you wait on His timing. Meantime, reach out to serve those around you, helping them to prepare for their exoduses. 3) God hasn't forgotten you. He knows exactly what you need, when you need it, and when to bring you out. Trust Him in your thoughts, your words, and your work.
A final encouragement: When God brings you out, don’t forget to allow yourself to rejoice, shout, and celebrate! What He’s done is mighty. Hold nothing back in sharing the victory; rejoice with everything you’ve got, and then thank God with everything you’ve got.