Why did it take the Israelites 40 years to make a journey that should have lasted eleven days? Liberation from slavery in Egypt seemed like a step in the right direction, but after a while, they missed the familiarity and predictability of their old lives and began to complain. Maybe they got caught up in the “good old days” mentality and forgot the oppression of slavery.
What does the promised land look like?
Is it just hearsay?
Is it really the land flowing with milk and honey?
Can we really trust God?
Ah, there it is. The question that it all boils down to. Can we really trust God? Can we trust there is a purpose in our wandering?
I’ve heard it was the Israelites complaining and disobedience that delayed the journey. But maybe it runs deeper than that. Maybe God wanted to pull every last thread of slavery out of the hearts of His people. He wanted to secure their identity as sons and daughters. He wanted them fully prepared for their future.
We all read the Israelites’ story with an eager expectation for them to arrive at their destination finally; it’s human nature. But intimacy can’t be rushed. God wanted to reveal Himself in a new way, right there in the journey. We often become anxious for the mountaintop moments in life, but as one of my mentors, Greg Gorman, says, “Vegetation doesn’t exist on the mountaintop. The valley is where you get fed.”
The Israelites learned this the slow way, God providing manna for food, bringing water from rocks, parting the Red Sea, and leading them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Baby step by baby step, the Israelites learned sonship through daily trust in God’s provision. God carried them through the long journey, bringing them closer to a truth He wanted them to own: My Father will take care of me.
Holding places provide opportunities to be liberated from false mindsets around our identity. When we surrender to the process, we allow our Father to hold us and teach us to trust Him. Amid the wandering, He makes this promise in Exodus 33:14, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Dear Father, thank you for the process of removing the lies surrounding my identity. Thank you that I am your child and dearly loved by you. Thank you for your good gifts, even gifts in holding patterns. Help me to step into full freedom and to trust you. Help me to understand the goodness of your character and your intentions towards me. Help me to rest in you and not in the outcome of my circumstances. Amen.