Eileen Sommi, an encouraging friend and wonderful writer, recently composed a month-long devotional specifically for our church body. I’m running a little behind (okay, more like sixteen days behind), but for good reason, I think: I’m stuck on a question from Day One. It is turning out to be a very important question.
The entry is based on the account of Moses sending a dozen leaders to scope out Canaan, a land God has already vowed that Moses and his followers will inhabit. You’ve heard of it I’m sure: the Promised Land. (Scary/funny sidebar: I’m baffled by how it is that in over four decades I’ve managed to completely miss the significance of that title. Go figure.)
It’s strange enough that God’s people can’t simply waltz in and take possession of what they’ve been promised. For some reason, though, they'll have to fight for it. And, according to the leaders who report back to Moses and the others, it’s going to be quite the battle. If I were the Israelites, I’d be a little thrown off.
I was already struggling to make sense of that little peculiarity before I got to the questions for reflection. The very first one brought me to a complete halt.
What has God promised you?
After thinking a few minutes, I couldn't come up with much of anything. It didn’t take me long to slam into something not-so-great about my faith.
I don’t really know specific things God has promised me. And if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.
Because I’m not so keen on allowing myself to grab hold of the kind of hope required to believe God will do something specific and good in my life. That kind of hope—the kind Caleb had when he told the Israelites they could beat those giants—has brought me way too much confusion and disappointment.
I’m not sure I’m all that interested in going there.
Now, let me be quick to add that I’m great with claiming God’s general good-and-trustworthy-ness for me. Giving God room to do whatever He wants without keeping me in the know . . . I’m good with that.
But don’t get detailed on me. Don’t ask me to name specific things He’s going to do. Don’t ask me to anticipate living in the Promised Land. Because what if it doesn’t happen? What if I never make it? What if it doesn’t exist? What if I misunderstood?
I’m just not up for that kind of disappointment.
I’d like to think this is because I trust Him so wholeheartedly. But that’s not the whole truth.
I’m not always willing to look for specific God-promises because I cannot bear the disappointment that comes when those hopes don’t come to pass. Letting my heart attach itself to such possibilities means opening myself up to a kind of pain I don’t do well with.
Yet God does often promise His followers specific blessings: He promised Abraham and Sarah a miracle-baby; He promised Joseph that his mean old brothers would bow down to him; He promised Israelites that their very difficult sojourn would end in a land of milk and honey. A specific place. He wanted them to bank on it, and they did.
They allowed themselves to envision the land.
They travelled for years and miles to get there.
They fought for it.
And all the time, they allowed themselves to trust that His promise would come to fruition.
Which means I might want to do the same.
Which is why the question in Day One stopped me in my tracks.
So I continuing to ponder (yes, hesitantly) the question from Day One: What is it that God has promised? Perhaps to others, but also to me? Do I trust myself to be able to hear Him accurately? Am I willing to envision specific future-blessings for my spouse, my family, my students, myself? Will I un-guard my heart enough to let it long for the Promised Land He has for me? Am I willing to a fight for it? Can I refuse relenting to the confusion that comes with struggling along the way?
These are questions I hope to answer.
And these are questions that I have for you: Are there specific hopes God has given you? How did you come to understand them as His promises? Have you had to fight for them? What are you doing to sustain your hope?