About ten years ago, a major upheaval initially leveled me, but then God used it to bring about incredible healing and growth. Ultimately, He shifted my focus off of myself and onto others and His redemptive mission. He showed me He wanted to use me, right then and there, in the middle of our difficult and uncertain circumstances.
This was shortly after Katrina and Rita, which hit the south back to back. We were living in
Louisiana at the time, and though we weren’t directly impacted by the storm, a good proportion of those we encountered were.
During this time, we went through a period of unemployment. My husband later received contract work just outside of New Braunfels, TX. To stay out of debt, we sold our home within a week, packed our minivan with everything we thought we’d need, and crammed everything else in storage. Then we moved to TX and into a 500 sq foot, rent by the month apartment, not knowing how long we’d be there, how long my husband’s contract work would last, or where we’d go once it ended.
This was a hard time for me, in part because of things I’d experienced previously.
But God used this period to bring such freedom, to show me His love and constancy, and to heal some pretty deep wounds. He also created a sense of anticipation. I felt certain we were in that place at that time (wherever He moved us and for however long we stayed) for a specific purpose. So each day I began with an expectant, “What do you have for me today, God? Why am I here at this moment?”
He answered that prayer each day and often used our exact struggle to help me encourage others. I was able to love on them with a compassion I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I thought back to this experience as I was reading through Ezra and how the previously exiled Israelites celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles or Shelters almost immediately upon their return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 3:1-6).
This feast was instituted by God when the people were at Mt. Sinai. He’d rescued them from Egypt and brought them to Himself. This was a time of liberation but also of loss. They’d given up everything to follow God (and Moses) into the unknown, into a literal desert but likely also a spiritual dessert. They lived in tents, as foreigners and travelers, and had no idea what lay ahead. All they knew was, when the cloud of God’s presence rose each morning, they followed. When it stopped they stopped. That was the extent of their knowledge.
God brought them to a place of complete dependence. They couldn’t run to the Nile River to catch fish or sneak to an Egyptian farm to snag a fig. God alone provided their food and water in the desert. As they traveled, in essence homeless, among the foreign nations, they were also to remember their mission. They were God’s chosen people, selected to reveal to every nation they encountered, who God was and how mankind was to relate to and interact with Him.
So, when they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, generations later, they remembered their ancestors’ journey, their dependence, and God’s presence.
This festival contained two important elements: light and water. Light reminded them of God’s presence–the pillar of fire that led the people each night as they fled their slavery and journeyed to the Promised Land. Light also played an important part in God’s temple. The people were to keep a candle burning continually, also to signify God’s constant presence.
Water reminded them of God’s protection and provision, of how He’d parted the Red Sea–the seemingly insurmountable barrier between them and safety and the land God had promised. It also reminded them of when God provided water through a rock in the desert, and 1 Cor. 10:1-5 tells us that Rock was Christ.
In all of this, they reminded themselves they weren’t alone or abandoned, and that God still had a plan for them.
For those of us in the middle of hard circumstances, I wonder how many have received the call to missions right where we are, in the middle of our hard. How many of us, like the Israelites, are being, not cast off, as we may be inclined to think, but chosen to reveal the power and presence and love of Christ in the middle of difficult situations. To reveal a faith that extends beyond Sunday mornings and sunshine weekends. Because you are precious in His sight, His chosen and redeemed, His daughters, a royal priesthood, called to proclaim the One who brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
Let’s talk about this! When has God called you to serve Him in the middle of a painful or uncertain period, and what was the result? In what ways is He calling you to live on mission for Him today?
Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
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