Little by Little

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I previously shared this post on a personal blog that I started (and posted on like 3 times). It has been on my heart a ton lately and I decided that it would be a good thing to update and reflect on. Especially as we are closing out 2017 and possibly feeling a little overwhelmed by all the things we are still struggling with that we were convinced we would have victory over before 2018 came around.

Throughout Exodus, the Lord uses Moses to deliver the people of Israel from the grips of Pharaoh's oppression and constantly displays His power and faithfulness to His people. As am I, the Israelites are quick to forget His provision. They are often filled with doubt and act in disobedience, yet the Lord remains faithful. A perfect example of this comes in Exodus 32…

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

Exodus 32:1-4

This fear comes after the Lord hears the Israelites' cry and delivered them from Pharaoh's hand through an incredible display of His power-- the plagues. This doubt comes after the Lord thwarts Pharaoh's plans to capture the Israelites and bring them back to captivity. This disobedience comes after the Lord provides daily sustenance for His people through manna, bread from the heavens. This unfaithfulness comes after the Lord's has proved His faithfulness to His people over and over and over again.

It is so easy to become frustrated with the Israelites short-term memories, but how often do I forget the faithfulness and provision of the Lord? I can look back at my story and see countless times I have grumbled against the Lord, even though He has provided more than enough for me time and time again.

As I have studied through Exodus multiple times over the past couple years, I have learned that along with this tendency to forget and the incessant doubt that so often creeps into my mind, comes an impatient heart. I want what I want when I want. I don't like waiting. What I want is a victory, a victory over some of the thorns in my flesh that have been plaguing me for years. I so often want the war against my sin to just be over. I'm tired and worn down from looking through journals from years ago where I was struggling with THE SAME EXACT THING THAT I'M STRUGGLING WITH TODAY. It's exhausting. I find myself praying for the Lord to take the struggle away and NOW. When the struggle isn't gone I find myself running back to the same strongholds that enslave me instead of providing freedom that I so desperately seek, I turn to doubt. I doubt that the Lord can and will deliver me. I forget the Lord's provision throughout not only my life, but all the way back to His people, the Israelites.

Well, the Lord, in His mercy, reminded me again recently of this passage as I have been “in waiting” in several areas of my life. Prior to the time when I wrote this post originally, I would have just skimmed over this passage without even a second thought, but over the years, and especially lately, I find myself going back to it continually.

And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. Exodus 23:28-30 ESV

I don't think we'll necessarily be seeing this passage on a coffee cup or t-shirt any time soon, but for me, it is such an incredible reminder of the Lord's patience and wisdom. Although this verse is the Lord explaining the physical journey of the Israelites to the physical promise land, I think it still very much applies to our walk with the Lord.

IF He did what I wanted Him to do and drove out all of the sin and idols from my life right this very moment, two things would happen:

The land become desolate... I am quick to forget my dependency on the Lord even amidst struggle and sin, how much more so would my pride & the facade of self-sufficiency swell in my heart if the Lord immediately drove it out as quickly as it appeared. I know that if my struggles were immediately removed when I requested them to be, because of my sinful nature, I would begin to believe the lie that I can fight the good fight on my own. I know that it would lead to a spiritual desert. I know myself & the Lord knows my sinful heart even more than I do. The times that I am painfully aware of my brokenness and realize my hopelessness a part from Him are some of the times that I feel most intimately connected with the Lord. It causes me to have a right view of myself in light of Him and leads me to worship. While I long for the other side of eternity, where there is no struggle, no waiting, no pain, no sin, I will continue to use these things as a reminder of my need for Christ's atoning work on the cross.

...and the wild beasts multiply against you. I don't know if anyone reading this is as stubborn as I am, but I am one of those people that if I don't learn it the hard way, I don't really learn it. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I am not alone in this. For as many years as I can remember I have struggled with an unhealthy relationship with food and self-image, which ultimately led to an eating disorder while I was in college. While it is still a struggle to this day, I can remember the days where I thought I would never be able to be out from under it as a stronghold in my life. Walking through that broke me and the Lord has used it to refine me, to strengthen me, and to sanctify me. He did not instantly take it away, He sat in it with me, and He taught me through it. Because of that, I am aware of my thought-life now more than ever and am able to see the thoughts that, if left to fester, will multiply against me. Had the struggle been taken away immediately would I be as mindful of that? Maybe not. The Lord is good and although I admittedly wish the process was a lot faster and a lot less painful, I am better able to wage war against the sin or “wild beasts” in my life after walking through those years.

The Lord in His perfect timing, moves us little by little into increasing freedom. By His grace, there will be some areas where we will have “increased and possess the land” in this lifetime, but because we live in a broken world, there will be areas that we won’t truly “possess the land” until He returns. Let us trust that even if we don’t see full possession on this side of eternity, we will hope in the fact that He will keep moving us little by little until the day, when we stand before Him, and on that day we will possess complete freedom.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

My prayer is that all of us would trust the Lord's patience and His wisdom. I pray that we would fight doubt and that we would trust and fully believe that the Lord works all things together for His good & His glory.