"The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes. It does not make life easy; rather it tries to make us great enough for life."
~ James L. Christensen ~
Forty years is a long time to wander in the wilderness. Yet God kept His people there for a reason. If they had entered into the Promised Land too soon, they would never have lost the slave mentality Egypt had bred into them for over 400 years.
Think about being a slave for a moment. Your life is totally controlled from the time you wake in the morning until you go to bed at night. Even if you don't like it, you must do as you are told or suffer harsh consequences, maybe even death. The things you are commanded to do may be dangerous, distasteful or frightening, but you have no choice, no will of your own. There is never time to put yourself first - to rest if you are tired or to "veg" if you are emotionally or mentally drained.
A bitterness settles in your heart. When you have time to think about it and if you have the energy left, you may feel anger and resentment toward your captors. You may begin to desire revenge or you may just give in to the hopelessness of your situation.
It's little wonder then, that God had to lead Israel around in the wilderness for 40 years to give them time to hear His voice. They needed to hear the words - "I love you. I will take care of you." They needed to see God's faithfulness as He stood by His Words by providing manna, preventing their clothes from wearing out, giving warmth by night, protection from the scorching desert sun in the day and victory over their enemies during the wilderness skirmishes.
God was building character and faith in His people, making them "great enough for life."
We all have our wilderness wanderings. For me it was a four year period where I was actively going through an emotional healing process to free me from the slavery of the "abuse" mentality. Through that time, I sensed His presence with me as I never have before and I knew He was saying to me, "I love you. I will take care of you."
Looking back, I can see how even though I struggled against the difficulties of the wilderness, it was necessary. He was working to make me "great enough for life." I still have my struggles and times when life isn't easy, but God has given me what I need to meet the difficulties - as well as the wisdom to know how to help others as they meet their trials.
It isn't so much my Christian faith that makes me "great enough for life." Rather it is the Christ I walk and talk with everyday Who has done it in me by His grace.
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