Hidden away in the hearts of many “believers” is a secret. It’s a secret that the heart itself often doesn’t recognize, and if it is realized, the heart doesn’t know how to remedy it. It’s a space that contradicts the very identity of a believer, like a pocket of air contained within a vessel of water.
Unbelief in the goodness of God.
As we read of the path of the Israelites in the wilderness, their complaints, rebellion, idol worship, and straying hearts, we are quick to judge them. We look at their outward actions and sense that we are so different from them. But as I was reading through Numbers 14 recently, the report of the spies and the resulting reaction of the people, I saw something different. I saw their hearts, and I saw that often my heart isn’t so different from theirs. I was surprised at the ache I felt in my heart as I read and I heard the Father say, “they didn’t believe that I was good.”
After all He did for them.
Like a prince rescuing his princess from a tall tower, God had pursued the Israelites in their captivity and broke them free with extravagantly performed marvelous deeds. Maybe they forgot who it was they were following. Maybe they believed He had been good but that His goodness wouldn’t be enough to stretch out to the wilderness and bring them into the Promised Land. Maybe they knew that God could win the battle for them, but they didn’t trust that He would. Whatever the case, in some place in their hearts there was some belief that the God they followed had a character capable of going out of His way just to lead them to their death before they tasted of the land of milk and honey.
I myself am in a sort of wilderness season. The season before claiming the promise. The season in between saying “yes” to God’s invitation out of the captivity of comfort and crossing into the Promised Land. My focus in this season has been worship. When I asked God why a few months ago, He told me He was establishing in me the belief that He is good. The battles that I win in the future will only be won when I stand on that belief.
If we don’t believe that God is good enough to win our battles for us, we will remain afraid of the giants in the land. Unbelief is the seed that produces fear in our lives, and fear is the wall that stands between us and our Promise.
If God is keeping us in the wilderness, it’s possible He’s waiting for us to start believing that He can and will fight and win our battles for us. It’s possible He’s waiting for us to rise up like Caleb and Joshua, strong and courageous. It’s possible He’s beginning to go into our Promised Land already and preparing our battles according to our level of faith.
In the wilderness we wait, in the wilderness we learn to trust, in the wilderness we dig wells and make history with Him. In the wilderness our worship forms us into warriors. Like Joshua who remained in the tent of meeting even after Moses left. Like David with his harp, sitting in a field with the sheep while his brothers went to fight. Our time in the “broad places” forms us.
In the wilderness we have the choice to allow God to discover those secrets of our heart, the places where we don’t really know if He’s good, and produce a different spirit within us. A spirit of faith that doesn’t waver at the sight of giants but moves forward to take possession at just one Word from the Lord.
But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land into which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.