I’ve been to the wilderness lately. Well, it was Palm Desert, which is basically a city full of country clubs, high-end stores and one cactus museum, but it is the desert. I was there in February, and I went swimming, because in the desert it never gets very cold, even in the winter. And I have to be honest with you, it was not a faith-growing experience. To be very specific, it was a vacation, and it was amazing. Hands down, my favorite vacation location to date. I loved every second of it, and if you get a chance to go, take it — and eat at Guillermo’s. You will not be sorry.
While this was a great trip, I remember clearly driving through the desert to arrive at our destination. There is nothing in the desert. Maybe some palm trees. Maybe. But even those are an anomaly and are not supposed to be there. It is scorching hot in the day and cold at night. It’s beautiful but barren. And in California, if it were not for Palm Desert and Palm Springs, it would be a valley filled with dust and lizards.
During Sunday’s sermon, when we recounted the experience of the Israelites as they were lead out of slavery into the desert, it was easy for me to relate to their complaints. I could picture myself in the valley with nothing around me, and I have to tell you, I had a hard time judging them for complaining.
Three days without food? We’re all freaked out about how long the line at the Mesquite Chick-fil-A is going to be while the Forney location remodels theirs. Come quickly, Jesus! Forty days without water? My son cried yesterday because I asked him to get his own glass instead of drinking mine. We were in the kitchen. Heaven, help us.
Then the whole Israelite community grumbled to Moses and Aaron in the desert.
— Exodus 16:2
I mean, I get it. They were just freed from slavery, and yes, this is not what they expected. But let’s give them a break. “Hangry” is a new word for a reason. When we put ourselves in their dusty shoes, we might find ourselves shaking our heads while complaining, “Yes we were treated poorly, worked long hours and owned nothing, but we were not dirty, tired, hungry, thirsty and nervous.”
I could be wrong, but I think this is point of the story. Yes, it happened to the Israelites, but it has been passed down from generation to generation for us to relate to. For us to see that even though we’re grouchy because we think God is taking a long time, we are not alone. We’re scared and hungry, and that is okay because when they asked for water, even though they were ungrateful and lacked faith, they received water. And when they were hungry, and Moses was appalled at their behavior, God sent them food.
We are going to see throughout this series that the wilderness was never easy. It was rarely enjoyable, and they spent a long time there. But spoiler alert: they are not still in the desert. Their story turns a corner. They received what was called “The Promised Land.” A land special because it was promised to them by God and, after the time in the desert. they got to arrive there. Finally.
So, what about you? What “desert” are you in? What are you complaining about while you are there? Don’t be ashamed. Cry louder, complain more. God can take it. Frankly, he made you, and he won’t be surprised anyway. But while you are in your waiting, remember who God is. He keeps his promises. Always. It’s his very nature. And your desert has a promised land on the other side, if you keep walking.