Running from the Hard Places

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“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance” (Ps. 65:11 – NLT).

“To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.” – Frederick Buechner

No doubt as we look back on 2013 we have been confronted with many challenges of life. Some are the tensions common to our day to day living and others test us far beyond what we believe we are capable of handling. There are leaky pipes and then there are leaky relationships; unexpected expenses and personal losses; piles of laundry and piles of debt. If there is anything that is not surprising it is that 2014 will continue to create for us new obstacles to confront both big and small.

So what will we do with this given reality? Will we live defensively on the edge of conflict and stress? Or, will we respond with a “peace that surpasses all understanding” in knowing that God will navigate our ways through tomorrow’s uncertainties as we rest in Him? Sometimes I get this truth but too often I am surprised and reactionary to conflict and change rather than embracing it as a tool God uses to form me into Himself. I know you all know what I am talking about. I speak for all of us.

But check this verse out – “even the hard pathways overflow with abundance” (Some translations say “overflow with fatness”. No, this is not a proof text to allow us to expand our waist sizes. In the Old Testament fatness was a good thing, reflecting the idea of blessing)…. This word picture is referring to the hardened path that is made by frequent, everyday traffic; a place not likely to be fruitful for the farmer. The Psalmist praises His God because he sees that God will bring forth fruit even in places that would never be imagined as plentiful! In fact, in the very places we would call IMPOSSIBLE for fruit bearing, God sees as fat, rich and bountiful.

What a paradigm shift! It’s revolutionary. We are so readily inclined to fret and run from our hard places that we rarely see our spirits flourish because we have chosen to stay and see the work of God in the place we have called the wilderness. Hmmm.

The Scripture says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be barraged by the devil. That was a “hard pathway”! But look at the fruit of those 40 days. On the other side of them Jesus had had a sweet intimate union with His Father resulting in His ability to withstand very real temptations and propelled Him into three years of ministry that have changed history – my history – your history. His Father proved faithful to make abundant and blessed a place we would call hell (Matthew 4:1-11).

Right now as you read this some of you, maybe “many” of you are in a hard pathway in your marriage. It would be so tempting to run from the conflict and the well-worn ruts you and your mate have created. I get it. That’s my temptation too. I don’t suggest that we avoid the hard work of changing old patterns that are broken in our relationships if possible, but there are some things we cannot “fix”. What will we do then? Run? Push our spouse into a change? Or will we trust God to shower us with blessing in the place we would least have expected? It’s easier to run or push? But trusting God for His riches and abundance inside us – that is fatness!

Lord, You know our tendencies to run and hide and point when we go through a hard circumstance. But we hear your call to us to do this a different way. We long for vision to see the good and the great in the midst of the mundane and grievous. We will trust You for the relief and the peace that comes from knowing you are at work in us – even in, especially in the hard pathways. Remind us of the new mind you have given us to initiate these changes. Make us new every morning. Amen.

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