Forty years is a very long time. It’s a very long time to wait on a promise. In fact many of the original Israelites who set out on this journey were now gone. (Deut. 1:35) But the next generation would hopefully see the promise fulfilled. They would be the ones to finally step into this land of milk and honey. Yes it had been forty years of pressing onward despite pain and heartache, regret and remorse over leaving Egypt in the first place. Most of them eventually lost sight and hope of the promised utopia. They’d given up. Fear and foreboding finally gave way to complacency. Only a few believed it would still really happen. (Numbers 13:30)
The miracle of salvation at the Red Sea was long forgotten too. They had forgotten how that impassable obstacle in front of them suddenly became passable! They had forgotten God’s faithfulness and provision all those 40 years. Starvation in the wilderness was never an issue since God had provided water and manna. Even their shoes and clothing had not worn out over all that time! (Deuteronomy 29:5)
Many of us have some sort of long standing, seemingly insurmountable battle in our life, our own Red Sea challenge. It could be a health issue you’ve struggled with for years, or a broken relationship with a spouse, a sibling or even a friend. I know people who haven’t spoken to their child in years, people with MS or cancer or heart disease who battle constantly just to get through another day. Or maybe it’s a continuous financial issue with more month left over than money. These are major life challenges that can beat you down, deflate and finally flatten you over time. When we were young we seemed to have more energy to fight but often with age comes despondency. How can we move forward let alone live joyfully in the midst of such day to day despair?
I understand enduring a struggle over years and years, praying for answers. In Part One of My Red Sea Challenge, I disclosed that my oldest son has an acquired brain injury. His diagnosis was made in his teens and although all the neurologists saw the injury on scans, they disagreed with my son as to how it affected him… until we met one very forward thinking Dr. who validated my son’s symptoms. This made a huge difference to him. He’d been depressed for years and unable to cope, in and out of hospital. I remember him coming away from that first meeting with that doctor so utterly relieved that someone finally acknowledged and substantiated his complaints. I hadn’t seen him this happy since he was a young lad.
Still, over the years, life has been a daily struggle for him. It’s so very hard to watch someone you love fight their battle. I continue to pray and support him in every way that I can but his is a permanent irreversible condition. When there is a family member who is suffering, unfortunately all focus and energy often all goes to them. It’s not easy for anyone in that inner circle. And, because it is a hidden disability, people around us just don’t get it either. For example, service is to be provided to a person with a disability in the manner in which they require, but when we ask those in customer service to slow down or repeat information, usually little changes accept that this time eye rolling accompanies the second explanation.
Understanding and accepting that this is not likely to change was hard. He’ll be fifty years old next year and it has been quite a battle…but also a blessing in many ways, something I never dreamed I would say. God has a way of getting our attention best when we face the Red Sea. The wonderful normal life milestones just never happened for him like a good job, marriage and children yet God has taught us both about letting go of resentment, of the “why me” syndrome, and as a result my son is one of the most forgiving souls you will ever meet. He is constantly genuinely thanking God for the life he has. He has become a strong and courageous warrior, Perseverance Personified, as I call him. He has learned to walk by faith, not by sight, not a blind acceptance but rather a confidence that has been built over time recognizing he is not alone. He embraces the fact that he has prevailed before and will again. He no longer listens to the lies from the enemy as he did when he was young.
Yes, acceptance has come at a cost. It’s like building muscle. Lesson after lesson over the years has resulted in strength and remarkable resilience. Long ago he made a choice, as did I, not to ruminate over and over on the why’s. Instead we focus on trusting God, anchored safe and secure.
In 2 Corinthians 12: 6-10 the apostle Paul speaks of a thorn in his flesh. We are not told exactly what it was, a physical or emotional affliction or even a pesky person, perhaps so that we can see ourselves in his situation. However we do know that it was so bad that Paul asked God three times to remove it, but he did not. Why? One reason we are told was to keep him humble. And, incredibly, eventually Paul learned to actually take delight in his infirmities, recognizing that God’s grace was all he needed to be strong enough to endure. There is a terrible beauty in suffering over a long period of time. Paul leaned fully and totally on God and God alone in his Red Sea challenge and so can we.