After the Lord rescued the Israelites from the Egyptians, they found themselves in the wilderness. The Lord promised them that He would give them the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, and He told Moses to send one leader from each of the twelve tribes to go explore the land. When the leaders came back, ten out of twelve of them came back with discouraging reports. Only Joshua and Caleb had the faith that God could bring them safely into the promised land. Everyone else doubted God. They said that they didn't stand a chance because the people in the land were giants, so much bigger and stronger than they themselves were.
"Then all the people (the Israelites) began weeping aloud, and they cried all night... 'We wish we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!' they wailed. 'Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and little ones will be carried off as slaves! Let's get out of here and return to Egypt!" Numbers 14:1-3
"And the Lord said to Moses, 'How long will these people reject me? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?'" Numbers 14:11
Sometimes, God moves mightily to deliver us out of a situation. He may even plant big promises in our hearts about what He has for us next. We get excited because we've see His hand move, we've been delivered! But then, we find ourselves waiting in the wilderness. And maybe while we're there waiting, things actually start to look worse. The wilderness doesn't exactly feel like freedom. Living in the wilderness is hard. There is no abundance in wilderness living. It's just survival. Our faith is tested daily and the mountains blocking our way out of the wilderness seem insurmountable.
God has taken us out, but He hasn't yet taken us in. And we feel stuck in the in-between.
At that moment, it is tempting to want to go back to "Egypt". We reason that things were easier there. It was easier being a slave than wandering tirelessly through the wilderness. And now, there are giants up ahead and we feel a little bit too much like grasshoppers to face them. Discouragement, doubt and fear set in. We panic. The battles seem too big. Our faith is tested. Will God really do what He promised? What if our battles overtake us? What if He just leaves us here wandering, only to die in the wilderness?
It reminds me of another story...
"As evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, 'Let's cross to the other side of the lake.'... But soon a fierce storm arose. High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. Frantically they (the disciples) woke him up, shouting, 'Teacher, don't you even care that we are going to drown?' When he woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, 'Quiet down!' Suddenly, the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. And he asked them, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?' " Mark 8:35-40
The disciples were in a very similar situation as the Israelites. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, the disciples were also stuck in the in-between. They had been taken out, but not yet taken in. Jesus had told them to get in the boat to cross to the other side, so they obeyed. But then they found themselves facing a very life-threatening and scary storm in the middle of the lake. And just like the Israelites, they panicked. They doubted the One who saves.
It's there in the middle, when the storms rage and the giants taunt us, where our faith is tested. Questions full of doubt and panic flood our minds. Will Jesus really get me to the other side like he said? What if he just lets me drown?! Will God fight my battles and defeat my giants like He promised? Will He really bring me into my promised land?
And it's during these times in the in-between that Jesus whispers the same thing to us as he did to the disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?"
It's the same thing God said to the Israelites, "Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?"
It's there in the in-between that we must remember who our God is. We serve a faithful and a mighty God. A Savior. A Rescuer. He's the God of miracles and He's faithful to fulfill all His promises. We must remind ourselves that He doesn't part the sea while taking us out only to leave us wandering in the wilderness and facing giants alone. And He would never tell us to get into the boat to cross to the other side only to let us drown in the middle of the lake. These storms and battles that we face belong to Him. And He is mighty to save.
"When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you safely out of Egypt, is with you! ... Do not be afraid... Do not lose heart or panic. For the Lord your God is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you the victory," Deut. 20:1,3-4