I woke up today with the realization that I may not one day be a bestseller. This dream of being a writer might not work out and unfortunately success is not inevitable.
This is probably obvious to you, but today is the first time I've ever had these thoughts. Maybe I'm naive because while I knew the road to being an author would be difficult, I assumed it would eventually lead me to where I wanted to go. However, as I sit here on that very road surrounded by opposing forces bearing down on me, I'm not so sure about where I'm going and if I'll ever get there. Thankfully, I read the perfect story about this exact situation this morning...
In Numbers 14, the Israelites are getting ready to finally enter the Promised Land. They have been living as nomads for over a year, and all of them are eager to settle down into the land God promised he would give them. This chapter opens with the Israelites sending 10 spies to go check out the land and make sure it's conquerable.
Turns out sending spies was completely unnecessary. God promised them this land, so they already knew it was theirs for the taking. It shouldn't have mattered who or what was in the land. Regardless, the spies go into the land for 40 days and have a look around. Turns out, the land is inhabited by giants...oops. The spies decide the land is going to be too hard to conquer, and they come back and convince the rest of Israel to bail on this whole Promised Land idea.
How often do I do exactly the same thing? How often do I send feelers into a certain land I would like to inhabit, only to be scared by the obstacles I will have to overcome to live there? I want to write a book, so I start trying. Then I realize how hard it is to actually write a book and get published. I want to run a marathon, so I start training. Then I realize how difficult self-discipline and exercise are.
I want to do ______, but it's just too hard. I don't know what that blank line is for you, but I think there is a valuable lesson to learn from the Israelites attempt to fill in their blank space (shout out to t swift).
When the spies return, all but two of them say there is no way the Israelites are going to be able to inhabit this land. They will surely get overpowered and lose any battle they try to fight. Not the report the people wanted to hear. They want to inhabit the promised land, but it's going to be too hard. The enemies are too strong and the battles too difficult.
My instinct is to think that since this story is in the Bible it should teach me how to respond in the face of adversity. Well, not exactly. In fact, the Israelites do the opposite of what I want them to do, and instead they respond exactly how I probably would in the same situation: they freak out. They start moaning and complaining, and they prepare to kill Moses for having led them there in the first place (a possible overreaction).
But before they murder someone for no reason, Caleb says something incredibly powerful to the people: "If the Lord delights in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us..." (Num 14:8).
Caleb saw the same things the other spies saw. He knew there were giants in the land. He knew it might be difficult, but he responded in the exact opposite way of the other spies. He never doubted that this land belonged to the Israelites. He also knew that no matter what, God was willing and able to let them inhabit it. I wish I had faith like Caleb.
When everyone was uncertain, he stayed faithful.
When the opposition seemed too strong, his faith grew stronger.
When the inevitability of success became an unlikely long shot, he remained confident in what he knew to be true.
And what he knew to be true was that God promised the Israelites he would stay with them and take them where he wanted them to go. Well, here's the crazy thing. God has made the same promise to you and I. He is always with us. Whether we are on the straight and narrow path, or whether we are wandering in the wilderness, God is there.
The obvious truth to this passage is if God is for us, who can be against us? And that's great and true, but I didn't write this to point out a cliche. Instead, I want to challenge you, and myself as well, to look at opposition as a sign that you are going in the right direction. This may seem counterintuitive, but I don't think it is. The Israelites saw opposition in the Promised Land, so they ran the other way and ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.
I bet there wasn't much opposition in the wilderness.
What if, instead of allowing opposing forces to deter us from where we want to go, we allow them to encourage us down the very path they are trying to block? That may sound crazy, but I don't think anything great has ever happened from someone deciding to go the opposite direction of opposing forces. In fact, I would even argue that most mistakes come when we choose the easier path.
When we run from opposition, we run from our potential.
I don't know. It's just a thought, but maybe we should all try to be more like Caleb. I know I want to have faith like his.
In my life, I'm full of uncertainty. So like Caleb, I'm going to stay faithful. In my life, the opposition seems too strong. So like Caleb, I'm going to help my faith grow stronger. In my life, success is a long shot. So like Caleb, I'm going to remain confident in what I know to be true. And what I know to be true is that if God is for me, there will certainly be things against me.
Let them come. The One behind me is stronger than the forces before me.