I started my first day of junior year today, so I figured I should write this down before I get too busy with AP homework and working and such.
So, the other day I was trying to get a last minute tan before school. You know, just so I wouldn’t look so much like a ghost or a porcelain doll for the rest the year. So I laid out the lawn chair and put on my bathing suit and prepared to fry my skin off. Strange enough, after I’d been outside for about ten minutes, all of a sudden all of the leaves on a nearby tree decided they were going to all fall off at once. I mean, it was summer! I hadn’t seen a single leaf fall since autumn- it wasn’t time for this! I was out in my bathing suit trying to tan, but this tree had other plans. My thought process: “Thanks for ruining my summer, Tree. Like I needed to randomly be ambushed by a hundred plus leaves while I am trying to enjoy myself.”
But it got me to think. The day before this happened, one of my best friends came to my house and we took a walk in which we discussed our lives and got attacked by bugs. It was actually quite wonderful. But one of the very first things she said as we began to unpack all of our struggles was that it was like all of these seasons were flying past her, and she was trying to cling to them, but there was nothing to grab onto. I got what she was saying, and I could definitely see why that would be a struggle in her life, but I figured that just wasn’t a problem I had. (At the time, I think I was still in denial of the fact that in a month I’m leaving everything I’ve ever known as a home and moving ten hours away.)
But then when these autumn leaves came out of nowhere and bombarded my tanning chair, I realized that maybe I really didn’t have the greatest understanding on the seasons of my life. Recently, a new season has been taking place in my life, and although it feels as if it hasn’t even had time to settle in yet, it’s changing yet again. (That’s how summer feels, right?) And so yeah. I mean, I’ve always looked at struggles in my life as different seasons, but all of a sudden it seems like an uphill battle to leave those seasons. It’s like God is saying, “Okay, this season of suffering can end now; it’s time to rejoice! Just give it to me and cross over the Jordan.” and I’m the Israelites and I’m saying, “Nope! I hate this struggle, but I’m comfortable here now. I hate living in this desert, but I’m not used to the Promised Land on the other side of the Jordan. I’ll just stay here and wander around for another 40 years or so.”
When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan, they were making an conscious effort to leave their old way behind and move on into abundant life. They could’ve chose to wander around for another forty years, but they chose the Promise instead. My friend Hannah said it this way- When the Israelites were in the desert, they were being provided for by drinking from rocks and having manna fall from heaven. They were constantly relying on God to sustain them. But in the Promised Land, they’d have abundance and wouldn’t feel a constant need for God. And the fear of not “needing” God could’ve kept them from crossing over, if they wouldn’t have chosen the abundant life. They may have felt God’s provision in the desert, but they weren’t made for the desert. They were made for the Promised Land.
Recently I’ve been wondering, “What’s so great about the Promised Land anyway? Sure I’m having a rough time and every second of everyday is revolved around this struggle, but at least I feel comfortable here. At least I get to see water shoot out of rocks; I get to see God come through when I’m desperate. And sure, He wants me to let it go and move on to the abundant life He died to give me, but I don’t think He knows what He’s talking about. I can’t live in the Promised Land; I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I were to live in a land characterized by satisfaction and abundance. That’s just not what I’m used to anymore. I can’t do it. I’m defined by my struggle out here in the desert and I couldn’t possibly be content without this constant struggling. This is me.”
I am not- and you are not- defined by struggles. We’re defined by the Father’s love for us and the blood of Jesus that covers us. We’re free to struggle, but we’re not defined by the difficult season we’re in. We won’t lose our identity if we let it go, for our identity is in Christ alone, whether in the desert or in the Promised Land. No matter what season we’re in, we’re always free in Christ. And I don’t wanna see anyone allow fear to keep them from an abundant life that God has promised them in love.
But when the Israelites were in the desert, they were tempted and tried, worn down and feeling defeated. But God’s victories among them and His undying love for them kept them going, and kept them fighting, and kept them pressing forward into His land of Promise. And during that time, they were going through the process of healing and learning to live how God wanted them to live. So even if you are in the desert, it’s just because God’s getting you ready to enter the Promised Land. If you’re struggling, it’s because God is giving you the strength and desire to someday cross the Jordan and find yourself deep in His heart. And I pray that you have the sensitivity to know that seasons do change. Don’t cling to a season you weren’t meant to stay in forever. Keep pressing towards the Promised Land. Don’t be afraid to live loved and satisfied. Don’t be afraid to let the season slip through your hands- it was never yours to hold, anyway. You were meant to cling to Jesus, and nothing else. Because after all, only love remains.