Rivers, Ravens and Widows: Finding Water in Dry Places

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Faith/Christianity, Uncategorized
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We’ve all been there…you know those places…the ones that you felt God was/is leading you towards because He wants to punish you for something you did…kinda like a scolding, or an ‘I-told-you-so’ moment.  It sorta feels like when you yell at the dog for doing something wrong…point him towards the corner for a ‘timeout’ (or drag him by the collar!)…leave him there for a while to stew and reflect on the punishment…then allow him freedom when the ‘appropriate’ time has passed.  Yes, we’ve all been there…and if you feel you haven’t…well my friend…it’s-a-coming!

The past few months have kind of felt like the aforementioned analogy above.  As I continue to wait for the Lord’s guidance on what the next steps are for us as a family…where’s the next ministry appointment…where are we going to live…where will my kids go to school…when will the clouds of uncertainty pass?????  Lots of questions, and although things have begun to take shape recently, there are still many cloudy patches in the horizon.  As much as I feel the river is about to bust open, I still find myself sitting in a dry riverbed!  It’s probably tougher being a guy as well, because we have this innate sense of provision for our families, and we can easily believe the lie that our worth and merit come from what we do, as opposed to who we are…and whose we are!  Then there’s the guilt factor…feeling you’re in a certain place solely because of something you’ve done…that your situation is a direct punishment/judgment from above.

I’m a firm believer that God leads us to places and seasons we may consider undesirable as part of the bigger picture in our lives, which is wrapped up in His bigger Kingdom picture, and sometimes punishment is part of that.  But what is the biblical goal of punishmentRESTORATION!  Any good parent knows that simply punishing your child for their behavior, without the acts of restoring them…showing them love in correction…explaining the ‘why’s’…being firm and graceful, is an exercise in futility.  The coach who, in frustration, benches the talented player because he chose to ignore the coach and do things his own way, and never communicates the intention of restoring and believing in the player, has likely lost the opportunity to move forward (at least in a healthy environment).  In turn, if that player is not open to receiving correction and input from the coach, and insists on going solo, is in for an awakening and reckoning!

It’s the same with our relationship with God.  When we try to do things on our own…ignoring His direction…living in pride, jealousy, bitterness, envy, self-directed…sin…we’re on a collision-course with an awakening whether we like it or not.  Nobody, if they’re completely honest, likes to be rebuked, corrected, punished…yet most of us can joyfully and thankfully reflect on the lessons learned when we’ve come through the other side.   Elijah dealt with this scenario in 1 Kings 17 when he had just arrived on the prophetic scene and pronounced to King Ahab that there would be no rain in the land for years (which amounted to 3 years before the Lord brought the rain).  One minute Elijah is preaching the word…feeling pretty good about things…doing the Lord’s work and finding merit in himself…and then BAM…he’s in the wilderness without a job, without a ‘title’ and not sure exactly what’s going on…and how long it was going to last.  He likely had all the thoughts any of us would have…”is this punishment?”  “Is this some kind of test?”  “what exactly is the meaning and purpose of all this?”  Now Elijah didn’t seem to do anything to warrant a ‘timeout’, but he had to be feeling like he was being ‘called out’ for something.

God often leads us to places we don’t really want to go to, but afterwards we end up realizing it was the best thing for us. Have you ever been to a place where the ‘river’ was dry?  I was reading an article this week that referenced a message from Perry Noble titled “Don’t Give Up!”  Although I do have some issues, at times, with Noble’s philosophy in how he goes about preaching the ‘gospel’, I do believe we can all learn from each other and glean wisdom, understanding and nuggets of biblical truth from one another…Amen?!  Anyhow, in the video message, Noble noted that;

God did not bring Elijah to the brook to punish him. God brought Elijah to the brook to prepare him for something bigger in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah is on top of a mountain calling fire down from heaven. Don’t give up when you are by the brook.” 

The premise is to see beyond the current condition/circumstance, and to focus on the one who is able to deliver.  Elijah was focusing on the brook as the source of his provision, and not to God as the one who actually had a plan and purpose in bringing him there.  Elijah was likely feeling ready to give up because the river dried up, because he had yet to see God as the true provider and source…which really just boiled down to a trust issue (part of the discipleship path).  We get the benefit of reading on in the chapter (and 1 Kings 18) to see how God continued to take care of his servant, and Elijah began to see that the source wasn’t ravens, rivers or widows, but a powerful and almighty God.  This was his preparation boot camp before the big clash yet to come in the next chapter!

For me personally, I was throwing a pity-party because of the situation I was in, which in turn caused me to reflect inwardly in a self-centered manner.  It became all about what I must have done, what I was missing out on, and why I couldn’t join in the other ‘parties’.  Don’t get me wrong, I do think God uses seasons in our lives to bring about a ‘holy timeout’, but for the sole purpose of revealing sin in our lives, restoring us, and leading us through reconciliation and healing for the long haul.  It’s all part of His preparation/sanctification process in our lives, and sometimes it hurts…lingers longer than we’d like…and brings humility in places we didn’t raise our hand and stand ready to receive.  But it’s all part of God’s redemptive plan in and through us, and when we’ve crossed through to the other side, we know we’re much better for it.  It’s not about the provision of water (although it sure does quench the thirst!), but ALL about who is providing it.

My prayer is that we can learn these valuable lessons and reflections while in the midst of the ‘dry seasons’, and not only once we’ve come through them!  God has been so good to me, and to us, and his provision has been through many instruments of His grace along the way.  His source of confidence, calling and anointing is not about a position or title, but everything to do with His spirit alive and at-work in me.  So I continue to wait, trust and prepare for the waters that are about to flow…Hallelujah!  In the meantime, here’s a quick snippet of Perry’s message from the Catalyst 2010 Conference in Atlanta, as well as Gungor‘s Beautiful Things…because in the end, that’s what we are to God in Christ Jesus, and that’s what He’s shaping us to be in the journey ahead!

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