David was no stranger to caves. But this cave was more than a place of shelter for a tired shepherd boy. It was a place where he would learn resilience- how to relate to God in times of deep loss and confusion. How to steady his feet on God's promises and forge ahead with hope. Here are some ways we can learn, like David, to practice soul-care in the cave:
A little more persistence could be just what we need to make steady progress toward our goals and dreams. Often, the assumption is that doing more and going faster are the answers. Persistence with payoff, however, must be grounded in the substance of rest, reflection, and a good dose of play from time to time.
"Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them." - Exodus 14:19
God's presence, manifest in the pillar of cloud, went before and in front of the people. This reassured them that He was leading. It gave them confidence, a visible reminder that God was on their side. But all of that changed when God's presence moved from out front and above to behind the people. I wonder if this re-positioning of God was disconcerting to His people? Could they feel an unexplainable change? Did they sense something was different?
I love it when God seems to be out front and above, guiding and overshadowing with His presence. But I'm still learning to trust Him when He moves to the background and goes behind. I'm realizing that even in these times He is actively relating to me, just in a different way.
Prayer: Like the Israelites, sometimes I feel trapped between a merciless sea and a threatening army. Lord, give me Your perspective when I look in the rearview mirror of life. Give me a glimpse of your constant presence. And may I be reassured, knowing that You are working to bring about a great deliverance.
In response to an angry and thirsty mob of complaining Israelites, Moses knew what to do first. Even better,he knew Who to consult. He and his brother Aaron went to meet with God, and He gave them specific instructions. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.'” -Numbers 20:7-8
I wonder...did Moses receive God's instructions and depart from that place of meeting without dealing with his anger and frustration? If so, it proved to be a costly mistake.
God told Moses to speak to the rock; instead, he struck it twice - I'm assuming in anger. Moses took a forceful, heavy-handed approach rather than choosing to simply speak and trust God. God redeemed the situation and did the miracle anyway. But it cost Moses dearly. He would be forbidden to enter the promised land. Why? "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me....". Ouch!
I think God loves to place challenges before me so that I can learn to trust him. And I don't think I'm alone. This is one of the ways he meets us in our situations. And when we meet with him, inviting Him into our struggle, he is always ready to help. In the most difficult times, there is nothing we can do (or should do) other than trust Him. In Moses' case, speaking to the rock required more patience and trust and less action on his part.
Can I trust God to work through my speaking as well as my doing? All around us people are pushing and shoving, hitting and hurting in order to make things happen. Some of us have been taught that this is the way to get ahead, to succeed in life. Is it?
Lately I've been feeling a need to push less and trust more. And somehow this will bring honor to God and ensure a joyous homecoming.
Prayer: God, this challenge is requiring me to trust You more. Help me not to force my way through it or try to escape it. But may I learn Your ways in the midst of it. In the process, may You be honored in the sight of those within my sphere of influence.
*Reflections taken from Numbers 20:1-13
"Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said" (Joshua 14:12).
Forty-five years after laying eyes on his inheritance, Caleb confidently comes to Joshua with a request to make good on God's promise. God had promised something humanly impossible for Caleb and his descendants. Was Joshua secretly hoping that in his old age Caleb would have forgotten? Not Caleb. At 85 years of age, he was ready to lay hold of his promise.
What was happening during those 45 years in between? I imagine Caleb helping his brothers take possession of their inheritances, raising a family, and working the land. As they wandered in the desert, He watched the original band of spies slowly die in their unbelief. Only he and Joshua were left. I imagine Caleb with a habit of speaking to the mountain on a daily basis, a mountain he would some day claim as his own. So, approaching Joshua with this request was simply a formality. It was, in fact, already his.
Once Caleb got the go-ahead from Joshua, he still had the difficult task of driving out the inhabitants of the land. There was a progression: Caleb spoke to the mountain and he trusted God. And behind the scenes, God was lining things up until the day Caleb would go in and conquer.
I'm learning the trust God more these days. One of my "mountains" has been establishing effective financial partnerships for our overseas work. I've been speaking to this challenge in prayer frequently. I need to pray and trust more. I have 45 years of total life experience under my belt; Caleb had 40, then he waited 45 more years until he was 85. Then the real work began. Should I be encouraged?
Prayer: Lord, you know my heart. You know how difficult it is for me to wait and to maintain perspective. Remind me that every mountain I face is an opportunity to grow in trust and patience, and to sharpen my skills along the way.
There's something about faith when lived out with tenacity, boldness and sincerity. It takes on a life of its own, influencing others in its wake. That's how a legacy of faith gets passed down through the generations. Of Caleb, we're told that "he followed the Lord wholeheartedly." (Joshua 14:14). That's impressive, especially when we understand the longevity of his wholehearted devotion. I love to imagine the impact this must have had on those around him. At one point, Caleb's own daughter approached him boldly with a request, "...Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. (Joshua 15:19). She wasn't afraid, even in a man's world, to ask and believe for big things. Could it be that she learned from watching her father all those years that God is hilariously generous - if only we will ask?
Caleb's nephew, Othniel, became the first judge of Israel. And he was himself a valiant warrior (see Judges 3:9). I wonder if he too had been inspired by observing the faith of his uncle....
Prayer: Lord, shape in me a spirit like Caleb's, that I might wholeheartedly pursue You and the gifts You have for me. And help me to pass down a heritage of bold and tenacious faith to those within my sphere of influence.
*From reflections in Joshua, chapters 14-15.
We normally perceive the Apostle Paul as bold, courageous and somewhat independent. He was not one to let anything stand in his way, let alone some fellow Jews and an earthly king who were trying to take his life. I've often wondered about the placement and point of 2 Corinthians 11:33 which states, "In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands." What's the significance, particularly in relationship to the rest of the chapter? At first glance this doesn't seem to match up with Paul's boast of weakness. But let's have another look.
The truth is that Paul understood and acknowledged his weaknesses. In fact, this is a striking picture of a man who had come to the end of his rope and needed a new one, a rope with a basket on one end and strong hands on the other. He was "let down through a window in a basket."!
A basket, a rope and someone else's hands to grasp and lower Paul down to safety. I imagine Paul curled up in a fetal position inside this basket. By no means is this a visual picture of strength and courage! Visualize this man of faith in a basket and you begin to understand the interplay between courageous faith and times of weakness. One could say that living out of a sense of weakness takes more courage compared to living out of a feelings of strength.
Prayer: Lord, today I feel weak and vulnerable. I need a basket, a rope and some strong hands to carry me through my trial. Thanks for helping me and bringing me safely to the other side.