God goes ahead and asks us to follow

It was the summer of 1984 and I had just finished my first year of teaching second grade. My husband was a student at the seminary and worked part-time as a typesetter. We lived carefully each month in order to pay bills and make ends meet. I decided I would work a temporary job during the summer months so that we could “get ahead” and save up the money we needed for his tuition and hopefully a short vacation! 

I worked at a job I really didn’t like. I filed paperwork for an insurance company all summer. The days dragged. The work was monotonous, and I won’t even go into some of the other things I had to deal with. But it was worth it because at the end of the summer I had saved up Jim’s tuition and had about $850 left over. 

I remember that $850 number because I learned an important lesson about God that summer. 

I only had two weeks of my summer job left when my car died. I was told I needed a new transmission and a couple of other things. The mechanic said it would cost about $860. I was utterly discouraged and disappointed in God. All I could think of was all the savings that would be lost. I had spent my “summer months off” from teaching doing a miserable job. 

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that the Lord had “gone ahead” to make sure I would have a working car when the next school year rolled around. There is no way Jim and I would have been able to handle a car payment during those years. 

I remember writing the check to the mechanic, knowing the money was sitting there in the bank to cover it because God had provided. 

A summer off?

Several months ago I finished writing the lessons and taping the lectures for the Bible study which begins this September. We were proud of ourselves for getting it done early. 

Trace, the woman I work with, said, “Won’t it be great to have some extra time off this summer?” 

When she said those words, I remember thinking, maybe even saying, “Yes . . . but there is also something in me that wonders what God is getting me ready for.” 

Summers have always been a busy work time for me. Nevertheless, my husband and I booked a fun Alaskan cruise, talked about a few other things we might do, and waited for the summer to arrive. 

Summer 2022 brought a wonderful week with our grandkids that was interrupted by a phone call from the retirement community where my mom lives. It was a week before my husband was scheduled to have extensive back surgery. I was standing in Chuck E. Cheese, looking at my young grandkids, needing to get Jim to a funeral to preach and me to the hospital—all at the same time. Standing in Chuck E. Cheese, I asked God, “What are you doing right now?” 

Mother Teresa has a great quote I have often repeated this summer. She said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle, I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” 

My summer off wasn’t

But, even though it has been a tough couple of months, I have always known the lesson I learned back in 1984. Just like God provided for Moses and the Israelites in the desert, he goes ahead of us, to prepare our way. 

That said, I’d still rather have taken that Alaskan cruise than move my mom to assisted living in the 109-degree Texas heat. I’d still rather have finished a project at work than help my husband endure a really tough back surgery. We don’t have to enjoy the deserts; we just need to cross them sometimes. 

Today, as I type this first blog “back,” I am grateful that God went ahead to make a way for my mom’s transition and for me to be able to help Jim recover. He is doing well and much better off now because of his surgery. I would not have had the time to prepare a Bible study this summer so God set it up for me to finish it early.  

The Lord goes before you

Moses spent so many years with those Israelites, trying to help them reach the Promised Land. If they had handled the desert times faithfully, they would have entered the “land of milk and honey.” God parted the sea, gave them quail and manna, and went before them as a “pillar of fire,” but the people just wanted the desert to end. I get that, and all of you have probably experienced your own deserts too. 

Sometimes it takes a lot of faith and trust to follow God. I remember how discouraged I was to give all my savings to a mechanic. This summer I knew, even when all the bad news arrived, that God had gone ahead to make the difficult days doable. That knowledge didn’t make the days easy, but it did provide a sense of God’s peace and Presence for that time.  

Many days I realized that trusting God and not leaning on my own ideas was key to the Lord directing our path. We have been blessed this summer, even though it has been a tough one. 

Moses didn’t get to enter the Promised Land, but Joshua did. Moses’ words to Joshua are a message to all of us today. There are desert times of life, but when we follow God, we can know he is leading us to the other side. Moses told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lᴏʀᴅ has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lᴏʀᴅ who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:7–8).  

You might be facing a desert, in a desert, or coming out of one. Moses’ words are truth for each of us during those times. God goes ahead of us. We just need to be careful to follow. When we trust his perfection, he can direct our path (Proverbs 3:5–6).  

Joy comes in the morning, but . . .

I’ve told several people this summer that “joy comes in the morning,” but sometimes we wake up in Alaska and realize it was a long night. Regardless, joy comes in the morning, and morning always comes. 

It’s good to be back to blogging. It’s good to be nearing the edge of the desert. It’s good to look forward to some easier days. But it is a blessing to remember that what God taught me in that summer of 1984 provided strength for the summer of 2022. God goes before us. He will not leave or forsake us. We don’t have to like the deserts of life, but neither do we need to feel dismayed.  

Joy comes in the morning—and the morning always comes. Let’s be faithful to follow him until that day our joy will come from the morning that never ends. 

Amen?

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