Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
Sometimes, God sends us signs to point us in the right direction. And sometimes, we ignore those signs. It happened in the Bible several times. And, of course, it happens in our lives. But the amazing thing is that God doesn't give up. He keeps putting up those signs, until, hopefully, we actually pay attention. I've been there. Read on to see what I had in common with the king of Moab once upon a time (and probably still, sometimes!).
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
Every time I read the 23rd and 24th chapters of Numbers, I laugh.
King Balak summoned Balaam to curse Israel. Every time Balaam spoke over God's people, however, he couldn't help but bless them. But the king didn't give up in trying to get that nation cursed.
"Then Balak said to Balaam, 'Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps, it will please God to let you curse them from there.'" Numbers 23:27And this didn't happen just once. The king kept hoping against hope that having Balaam look at the Israelites from a different angle would change God's view of them. Balaam actually gave five different oracles, from five different spots, all blessing God's chosen people, much to Balak's chagrin.
Silly and stupid, I'd think each time I read it. Until last time, when I saw Balak in my own reflection.
How often have I wanted to do something, received a "no" from Him, but either tried to justify it or sought another way to make the request? God puts stumbling blocks in our way, at least sometimes, to keep us in His will. His wish is that we discern those difficulties as signs from Him to turn the other way. But we don't always do it.
From the time I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. It was my dream. I practiced with my younger brothers (yeah - I even gave them homework - and made them do it!). I took classes. I got the degree and the teaching credential (by the skin of my teeth - but I'm not going there). And I got my first teaching job as an English teacher at Perris High School in Southern California in fall 1990.
I wasn't a praying woman at the time, but if I had been, some of my conversations with the Lord over the next several years would have looked something like this.
Spring 1991: "You don't really want me to quit teaching, do you Lord? Just because I am completely unable to keep the class engaged doesn't mean I should quit, right? Maybe if I try another school, it will work."
Fall 1991: "I'm struggling just as much at this new school, Lord, but I'm sure it's just because I don't know anyone here. And maybe it's just the high school level. Lord, I'm sure teaching elementary school would be better."
Fall 1994: "No job yet, Lord, but I am substitute teaching. Still struggling, but every substitute has discipline problems, right?"
And finally, the revelation (Spring 1995): "Well, here I am, Lord, in a long term sub position in my preferred grade: first grade. I still can't handle the discipline. Lord, are You trying to tell me something?"
It's not always that blatant, of course, but I pull a "Balak" much more often than I'd like to admit.
It's human nature to put yourself first, to satisfy your own wants, to try to manipulate the world around you. But if your desires are contrary to His will, He will let you know - over and over, if necessary - to stay away. (Isn't that amazing?)
So accept His guidance the first time. Just think of all the time and resources Balak and I could have saved if we hadn't tried to find a way to get our will done.
Heavenly Father, I am such a selfish, strong-willed person at times, greedily trying to circumvent Your plan for me to satisfy the desires of my own flesh. Help me, Lord, to listen to and heed Your voice so I can stay within Your will, not to mention avoiding the struggles on my own path. Help me not to follow Balak's example, Lord, and instead follow that of Jesus, who wanted and did only Your good will. In His name I pray, Lord. Amen.
Over and over - before I even accepted Him (yeah- I got saved in '98) - He tried to guide me. He didn't give up, no matter how stubborn I was. He is SO good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength