If you have been on your journey for any time, you know you can find hurt, frustration, disappointment, and failure. Regardless, you cannot give in to the destructive practice of bitterness. It is famously said that bitterness is the poison we drink, hoping it kills other people. Bitterness is the result of losing what we need for the journey. We stop walking in hope, faith, and trust and resign ourselves to accepting the worst of all possibilities.
His disciples were confused and distraught when Jesus ascended into heaven after His death and resurrection. But Jesus explained it was better for Him to go away so that the Holy Spirit could come and live in His follower’s hearts. What a wonderful development that God Himself would create a way to come and live in a person’s heart. Not just in a temple they could visit or among to be seen but not fully known. God moves in! Every believer becomes a connection point between the eternal God and the present moment. And Paul explains that God gives us power and direction on how to walk.
The Holy Spirit living in our hearts ushers in a new way of living life. He opens up the way and then provides the power to live it out day by day. The Holy Spirit does not just provide a standard or a set of instructions but lives and moves within the heart and life. Paul describes the relationship using the human idea of marriage. Two have become one. You can’t easily separate or determine where each part begins and ends.
Wandering through the wilderness can bring burdens to our souls. The journey is filled with uphill climbs, stumbles, and u-turns. Jesus never promises that we will be successful. He promises that we will be accompanied. We live in a culture that values instant success and envy those who shoot to stardom overnight. Too many times, though, spectacular success has been followed by spectacular failure. When the journey is hard, we must decide how we will walk. And what we will allow to weigh us down.
Our hope is built on the trust of a loving God who has good plans for us. But how do we keep walking when those plans don’t materialize or determine they can only exist sometime in the distant future? People tend to slip into bitterness and despair when the journey gets difficult. And our journeys can truly be difficult. We can face more challenges, hurts, and brokenness than we can bear. It is an oft-quoted saying that God will never give us more than we can handle, but you won’t find that in the Bible. The closest you will find is that there is no temptation that we cannot resist. What do we do when our feet get heavy, and we struggle to keep moving?
That was just a Warm Up
There is a lot of life that we have no control over. We can’t control the weather, the economy, or what other people choose to do. We can plan and practice wisdom and good financial stewardship and still face trials beyond our ability to navigate. In every circumstance, there are two things you can always control, your attitude and your effort. As the Israelites were approaching the goal of their journey, they sent out 12 spies to see the land they were to possess. 10 returned in dejected defeat and bitter at what they saw. All the hardship, all of the effort, and they looked at the goal and determined it was impossible.
When we allow bitterness and despair to rule in our hearts, it affects our whole approach to life. The spies looked at the promised land and saw only obstacles. They saw that the journey through the wilderness was a school in learning how to trust God. Trusting in God was the only way they would take hold of the promised land. What they thought was the end of their ordeal made them realize that the wilderness was a warm-up to real work. And that caused their hearts to drop and their determination to fade away.
Eyes that See
But two of the twelve did not see it that way. Where the other spies saw obstacles, they saw opportunities. They saw how good the land was and that it flowed with “milk and honey.” They were ready to claim the promised land because they had an unwavering trust in God. They understood that the journey was not the goal, but the preparation of the journey was so that the promised land could be received. Their hearts saw the land’s goodness, remembered God’s goodness, and were ready to take the next step. They weren’t blind to the risk, the struggle to come, or the fact that there would be hard times in the future. They saw all that and instead focused on a greater and higher God. They couldn’t control who was in the promised land, but they were ready to make an effort to claim it.
Jesus said that the eye was a lamp to the body. At least some of what he meant was how we see and understand life. Do we see obstacles or opportunities? With God, the possibilities are endless. But we develop tunnel vision when we allow bitterness and despair to darken our outlook. We expect, experience, and remember only defeat and death. But Jesus calls us to life, despite circumstances or where we wander. We live differently when we see life in every moment, thankful for God being at work and expecting what He will do next. Take a moment to reflect. What do your eyes see?