- A church
- A home
- Godly friends
This left me wondering why a prayer for a seemingly righteous (in my own eyes) request was not answered in my own way and in my own time. In my studies and search for understanding, God put on my heart some very powerful insights about these desires for close friendships at our duty station. (I would also like to say at this point that God has richly blessed me with wonderful friends that are only a phone call or quick trip away, and for those friendships I thank God every day.)
God’s people were finally about to enter the Promised Land after years of agonizing discipline in the desert. But before they could go in, God had a few more words for them. Numbers 33:55 is part of this: “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.’” God instructed his people to drive out the current inhabitants in order for the Israelites to enjoy the full blessing of the Promised Land. Otherwise, God warned, the natives would become “barbs in [their] eyes and thorns in [their] sides.” The Message Bible translates the second part of the verse as this: “They’ll give you endless trouble right in your own backyards.” God wanted the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, and for the Promised Land to be everything He originally intended.
As I entered our new duty station, did I claim God’s promises? Did I try to drive out those that were destructive to His land, or did I allow the original inhabitants of the land to stay? Unfortunately, I let the natives stay. I did not fight the destructive tendancies around me and spent months with an emotionally hurtful thorn in my side. Rather than claiming God’s promises, I allowed the land’s original inhabitants to destroy what was intended to be a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:22). Perhaps in this struggle, God is disciplining my lack of obedience to him.
Or perhaps God was sparing me from an even worse pain that comes from having destructive friends. Proverbs 13:20 says that “he who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” I “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). All things. Even friendships. God’s emphatic “no,” or worse, His seeming silence on this issue, was hurtful, but I know that I know that I know that God has a reason for that season of my life. I might understand it one day. I might not. It doesn’t really matter because God is in control and is somehow working even this for good.
Sometimes God allows times in our lives where he intentionally send us into the wilderness. He specifically ordained these times for a purpose He may or may not reveal to us. But take heart! Even though God sometimes sends us out into the desert, His provision never ceases: “‘Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert…You gave your good Spirit to instruct them…For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing….’” (Nehemiah 9:19-21). I might not have great friends at a duty station, but God still provides in other ways. He provides His love, my precious family, and friends that are far away.
If you’re still with me at this point, please continue reading this passage in Romans. Every time I read it, I find myself almost shouting it with joy, fist pumping, and leg stomping in the style of the most charismatic church you can imagine.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.Amen, anyone?!
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:26-39)
In conclusion, I learned to find some kind of peace in the situation God gave me. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, italics mine). I also found that it is “better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (Proverbs 21:19). Or bad friends.