Infertility can seem like the long way to nowhere. The stress of not knowing how long the journey could take, combined with the uncertainty of whether you’ll ever get where you’re trying to go, can be almost unbearable. What’s the point of a journey if you can’t make forward progress? That’s the question that convinces some couples to give up before they ever reach their desired destination.
Consider this… Sometimes, there’s a reason for getting lost. A purpose for the time spent wandering. A blessing that results only if you take the long way.
I’ve been re-reading Exodus and thinking about the 40 years it took for the Israelites to make an 11-day journey to the Promised Land. Talk about taking the long way. What happened? They could’ve made it there and back more than 650 times in 40 years.
Were they totally lost? No, God was leading them – as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Was He intentionally leading them in circles? It seems that way. What was the point of that?
Clearly, there was a purpose for the time spent wandering. A reason for making it impossible for them to see how close they really were to what God had promised. What was it?
1. A transformation had to occur in them resulting in total God-reliance. They had learned how to stay alive in Pharaoh’s world by relying on his capricious favor. God wanted them to realize that life in that world meant little more than survival; He intended to bless them with much more. But first, they had to un-learn their fearfulness, their self-protective instincts, and their tendency to panic when they couldn’t understand what was happening.
Does that sound at all familiar to you? Might God be teaching you the same things? How so?
2. The 40-year journey was a time of mutual testing. The Israelites tested God’s trustworthiness, and He tested their trust. God heard and responded to their frequent calls for help. He proved Himself responsive and generous. He demonstrated His faithfulness and His abundant goodness – time and again. Could they trust Him to provide what was needed, when it was needed? Even when they couldn’t see how He could possibly provide? Would they learn to accept His ‘no’ with as much trust as His ‘yes’? Could they learn to rely on Him with confident hope — despite whatever they could (or could not) see or understand?
If any of this resonates with you, mght it be that you and God are also testing each other? If so, how could that make this time seem more purposeful?
3. As Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her new bestseller, An Altar in the World, God spent the 40 years empowering His people, while also teaching them gratitude: “God strengthened that wilderness gene in them, the one that made them strong and resourceful even as it reminded them how perishable they were.” And, “by the time they [finally] arrived in the land of milk and honey, they knew how to say thank you and mean it.”
Might you be discovering a new kind of strength and resourcefulness on this journey, even as you discover how fragile you and your dream really are? Might God have a purpose in teaching you to be strong in and through Him prior to reaching “the land of milk and honey?” And, might it be hugely important for you to be ready to thank God and mean it when you finally get there?
Here’s the good news I see inherent in the 40-year journey – and in your own:
1) Duration does not always predict success. The Israelites took 1,327% longer than the “average” traveler to get where they were going, but they were meant to get there – and they did. The time it took was, in hindsight, a blessing that built their faith and prepared them for their future.
2) Speed does not equate to favor. First and fastest doesn’t prove (or disprove) anything. Writes Taylor, “If someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times.” It is those who follow God’s leading, trust His timing, and stick to His path who will, ultimately, be most blessed.
3) God always passes tests of trustworthiness. If you draw the obvious parallel to the Israelites’ story, the only unknown is whether you will pass tests of trust. Are you at peace despite the appearance of being lost? Do you believe God knows exactly where you are, and exactly how to get where He wants you to go? Do you believe He wants to lead you to nothing less than His best for you?
Lean into this journey. Trust that it has a purpose. And be confident that you are not lost to God.