Wednesday, May 3, 2017

the pain and the beauty of the way everlasting


As summer approaches, I am eagerly awaiting a planned vacation to the beach. Part of the main appeal of a vacation destination is simply that it isn't "here," wherever "here" is; it is a place unassociated with our day-to-day stress and responsibilities. The very fact that it is far enough away to make us feel care-free implies that we must make a trip to get there.
Sometimes God casts a vision of a new place where He wants to take us, but it is so different than where we are currently and where we have been before that we must journey to get there. The journey may simply be time and effort as we do the daily work of studying scripture. Other times, the journey is the long road to recovery required in order to receive a healing that desperately needs to take place.

The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years before God delivered them and called them to a journey that led to the land of their inheritance. In Joshua 5, just after God miraculously enabled the Israelites to pass over the Jordan River onto dry land in Joshua 4, God commands Joshua to circumcise the adult male Israelites. The first generation of Israelites who left Egypt were denied entry to the Promised Land due to their unbelief, and the second generation of Israelites who had been born in the wilderness had not yet been circumcised. Before going to battle to take their inheritance, the Israelites had to bear this outward symbol to show that they belonged to the Lord. Perhaps this command was a reassurance to them that the Lord still called them His own after their parents had fallen out of favor with God.

When the circumcision was complete, Joshua 5:9 says,
Then the Lord said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you."

As I researched what this meant, I found that the circumcision was an outward sign to show that the Israelites were no longer slaves to the Egyptians but were instead "free born children of God" (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary). As a citizen of twenty-first century America, I have difficulty appreciating what it would be like to be a slave, but I imagine that something so traumatic would leave some psychological and spiritual scars that would be passed down to the next generation. Though their parents had been circumcised, God wanted to renew His covenant with the next generation before ushering them into the Promised Land. Part of the Israelites' reproach was that they had been immersed in the Egyptian culture of idolatry, so the circumcision would show that they were now to be fully devoted to the Lord (Matthew Henry's Concise Commenary). They needed to remember and show that they were leaving behind the destructive habits and beliefs from the past as they followed the Lord to the place of the inheritance where they could enjoy the blessings of abundance which God had promised (Exodus 3:17).

No doubt the circumcision was physically painful, and the Israelites had to take time to rest and heal afterward (Joshua 5:8). The process of letting go of our own destructive behaviors and beliefs can be painful, but when the Lord ordains it in His perfect timing, He provides all that we need. The Lord's chosen timing for the circumcision seems odd because instead of doing it in the obscurity of the wilderness, God waited until they had crossed over into enemy territory. The circumcision would have left them weak and unable to defend themselves from their surrounding enemies. However, when He calls us to something painful but necessary, He provides all we need in order to be healed. Joshua 5:1 says that the Israelites' enemies, having heard about the miracle the Lord had done in leading His people across the Jordan River, were so afraid that they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. Thus, they could rest and recover without fear of an enemy attack. The healing process requires that we become aware of and acknowledge an area that is diseased or injured, and taking this honest look at ourselves can be difficult and painful. When we come face to face with our own sin and scars from past hurts, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, the Father of compassion stands by, providing the rest and support we need in order to be healed.

...Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles...
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Ultimately, His mighty work done in the midst of our weakness is one of the ways that God reveals Himself to us and to those who witness or hear our stories of redemption. When we are in a place of brokenness that makes us painfully aware of our own inability to fix the mess or heal the hurt or solve the problem, we are better able to see and recognize the hand of the Lord as He lovingly intervenes. Though sometimes painful, the process of our healing is for our good as well as His glory. He heals us because He is life and goodness and wholeness and purity, and the more we abide in Him, the more we will see our own healing and restoration as a natural result. As our trust in Him increases, we can more fully appreciate the significance of Psalm 139:23-24. Though we may know all too well the pain of facing our own sin and our own pain, we can ask the Lord to reveal it to us as we trust that His purpose is to lead us in the way everlasting. This prayer echoes in my own heart as I am reminded of the pain and the beauty of the healing He has done in me. Though I understand the cost better than I did before, I have experienced joy that awaits because He is faithful, and so I look forward to the healing that is yet to come:


Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

4 comments:

Melissa Schlies said...

I love how you point out that God gave the Israelites the time and protection to heal. Often our first response is to deny that we are in pain, to ignore it, or avoid doing the hard work of healing--but God wants to take us through the healing. He wants us to be whole again, and if we seek Him, He will give us the time and space for it.

Becky Weber said...

So good. There have been so many times that the Lord has taught me things in the midst of healing. Not sure how we could learn as much in other situations!

Lindsay said...

You are so right! I think our culture encourages us to press on and ignore or anesthetize the pain instead of doing the hard work of healing.

Lindsay said...

I wish there were some other way, but I think you are right!