In a recent conversation with a co-worker, I was taken aback to know that he thought of himself as being emotional in his orientation. A very down-to-earth, practical person, I have always thought of him as one who was full of of rich emotions rather than being an emotional person, a vast difference between the two. He was pleasantly surprised and so, as a counsellor, I went on to explain about empathy and sympathy.
Empathy and sympathy are words that many use interchangeably, since they are near cousins, but truly differ vastly from one another. In every field and aspect related to human care, such as the medical field or allied professions, empathy is touted over sympathy as being the needed emotion. Why is this so?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Sympathy, constructed from the Greek sym, meaning “together,” and pathos, referring to feelings or emotion, is used when one person shares the feelings of another, as when one experiences sadness when someone close is experiencing grief or loss. Empathy is a newer word also related to “pathos.” It differs from sympathy in carrying an implication of greater emotional distance. With empathy, you can imagine or understand how someone might feel, without necessarily having those feelings yourself.
Sympathy is the feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So, empathy is a much deeper feeling than sympathy, as it connects you with the other person.
Sympathy is to understand what the other person is feeling while Empathy is to experiencewhat they are feeling. Sympathy is Expressed for the other person, whereas Empathy is Shared with the other person.
Sympathy is more subjective and often causes one to become emotionally blinded, patronising, creating a divide between you and the other person – that you are lucky, you have come past the problem, but they are unlucky and still struggling.
Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to detect another’s emotions and deal with them in a beneficial manner while being able to recognize and regulate your own emotions. Empathy occurs in the here and now, shown by immersing yourself in another person’s world, without making yourself into them – you retain your sense of self and know that you yourself are actually outside of the problem. Empathy is objective because it views information through logical criteria rather than personal opinion.
Social psychologist and bestselling author Brené Brown says, Empathy drives connection and sympathy drives disconnection.
The Bible in Hebrews 4:15 notes that we have a High Priest Who can empathize with our weaknesses and is therefore, able to make intercession for us. Jesus is able to advocate for us before the throne of grace just because He truly knows what we are going through and even though He Himself is perfect and pure, He is not critical but understanding.
Sympathy will make us consider and commiserate with others, feel pity for them in their situation, but that is all we will do. Empathy, on the other hand, will enlarge our understanding to know what they are going through and drive us to atleast pray for them. Empathy is at the root of intercession since it enables us to really put ourselves in the other’s shoes and sense their predicament without getting lost in our own emotions about it. We are able to uphold them in their infirmity because of our ability to identify with them without getting entangled in our opinion or our judgement about the situation they are facing. Empathy will make us excusers and reconcilers, rather than accusers and destroyers of our own like the devil!
Now the Scriptures do not stop with declaring that the Lord empathizes and identifies with us in our weaknesses (for He Himself was made like us Heb 2:17-18), but also proclaims that the Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion (Ps 116:5 NIV).
Compassion, builds upon empathy and is one of the main motivators of altruism. With empathy, I share your emotions; with compassion I not only share your emotions, but also elevate them into an universal and transcending experience. Compassion, or “suffering alongside” someone, is being more engaged than simple empathy, and is associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object.
Sympathy is a feeling of sadness or pity felt for another person. Empathy is a one-on-one connection because of a deep understanding that comes from sharing an emotional experience. Compassion is the willingness to relieve the suffering of another and compassion is a broader sense of care for the world at large. Mark of compassion is the move to action!
The Gospel writers highlight Jesus being moved with compassion and always doing something to alleviate the suffering or need – feeding the multitude, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk, raising widow’s dead son and sharing the good news.
Apostle Paul writes to the churches urging them to, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12 NIV). Compassion is to not stop with feeling or understanding, but going beyond to do something to relieve the suffering.
I think my friend whom I spoke about, is not just emotional as he thinks, but truly compassionate, for I have seen him go out of his way to care for others, making him excel and stand out in his line of work. This inclination enables him to bring a new dimension to the highly competitive field of sales, for he operates with genuine concern rather than just an eye to profit and loss, even though that his sphere of responsibility. Compassion helps him go the extra mile in his daily routine, bringing a care that brands him as a follower of Christ and disciple of His teaching.
In this covid period, compassion and empathy, rather than just sympathy and pity, will enable us to be doers rather than bystanders or commentators!
*Pic courtesy google images, umsplash and shutterstock
When I hear about people being in grave illness, especially cancer or other sicknesses for which there seem to be no cure, I feel helpless and hapless.
When I receive requests to pray for people who are wasting away with specific maladies, I often feel clueless and powerless, especially when there seems to be no change.
I wonder, what is the use of praying when you know there is no remedy for such dire diseases. I am puzzled by what is accomplished when I am called to intercede and petition for any one as it is obvious there is no cure yet for such ailment nor too much history of healing, compared to the numbers affected!
I wonder why I should pray and what is the use of my intercession!
When I faced a similar situation with a family member being hospitalized for a sickness, I was swamped with a feeling of despair and inadequacy to deal with it. In a state of numbness, I informed my family members and then sat back overwhelmed by the many thoughts of changes that would be needed in the event of such a sickness. I couldn’t pray, couldn’t comprehend what to pray for, why I should do so and how to go about doing it.
That’s when my dad, a true man of God and faith, wrote to me, first encouraging me by reminding me of a past incident when God healed his mother, my paternal grandmother, in answer to prayer. Then he sent me a quotation from Job 33 and therein I found my comfort and the answer to all my questions.
I read there that ‘God disciplines people with pain on their sickbeds, with ceaseless aching in their bones. They lose their appetite for even the most delicious food. Their flesh wastes away, and their bones stick out. They are at death’s door; the angels of death wait for them.‘ According this passage, God does this in order to ‘rescue them from the grave so they may enjoy the light of life.’ This about people who are going through the dealings of God.
What about those of us who are observers and bystanders, as well as loved ones and family members? What are we to do? Stand shocked or throw words of judgment and criticism against them, pointing our fingers at their misdemeanor? Not at all! Then what can we do? The answer to this is given in the same chapter.
Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them – let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth – then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’
I see that all we can do is to stand in the gap and intercede for the person who is suffering. We have to be gracious towards the one who is in trouble and be an angel or a messenger of mercy to present their cause before God. We need to uphold the ransom paid for them on the cross by His Son Jesus and ask God to spare them. We need to be advocates of their case before God and petition for their restoration.
What is the effect of such a stance on the one who is suffering? The ones going through the dealing of the Lord are given special ability to pray in the midst of their trouble and find favor with God. They are given grace to ask for pardon and they will also find mercy in His sight. They will turn back and turn towards God, like the sunflower faces the sun! They will then turn witnesses of His benevolence and beneficence, rather be remain rebels of it! That is why intercession is important, because it enables them to turn to their Maker.
The impact of intercession and petition on behalf of a delinquent moves the already compassionate heart of God, making it possible for Him to extend His mercy rather than judgment. God is both the God of justice and God of mercy, keeping both these parts of His nature in perfect balance. Yet, according to James 2:13, mercy always triumphs over judgment, a fact illustrated and stated by Portia in the Merchant of Venice.
We see this same sentiment echoed by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians when he writes that the prayer of many delivered his team and team from
God’s heart towards us is the heart of a Father and a mother, seeking to exhibit mercy rather than execute judgement, for He loves us dearly. Rare is the parent who, even in the height of anger, will not yield to persuasion by someone else who will petition on behalf of the erring child they are forced to discipline. A parent yearns over their child even when they have to punish and nothing makes them stay their hand as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister or friend pleading on behalf of their own guilty child. They love the one who steps into the gap to rest the hand of harsh retribution.
So, also God, as the eternal lover of His creation, seeks for someone to stand up in defense of the one who is facing the rod of correction that His majestic justice requires of Him. When such a messenger is found or is present, God will gladly stay His hand of justice in favor of extending His Hand of mercy. If, in addition a ransom is also found, God gladly restores and rejoices in life rather than in execution. God cannot hold back His judgements, but He can be persuaded to deal favorably when an advocate of mercy is found.
That is why God loves intercessors and prayer warriors who stand in the gap and plead for His mercy on His humanity rather than those who demand reteibution.
God seeks to be merciful more than being harsh or judgemental. His Name that was proclaimed before Moses is “The Lord , the Lord , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”Exo 34:6-7. When His very name and nature are compassion, how can He not respond to interceding petitions and prayers!
To my question of why intercession and of what use it is when all seems hopeless, I found that intercession and prayer birth repentance and rejuvenation in the one who is suffering and makes way for God to be merciful and restoring towards His people rather than judgmental.
The call is to be intercessors rather than accusers.
There is an old Tamil film song that used to touch my heart when I was a young child that goes like this: If Lord Jesus speaks, what will He speak? What will He speak in order to quieten a poor aching heart? These words were very dear to me because it brought God close to me, as One Who speaks to me.
Often we are in a quandary as to whether God speaks and if at all He is speaking, what is He speaking to us, especially in times of trouble.
Job, a man of great wealth and great integrity who lived in times past, also had the same question in a time of extreme suffering, when all that he believed in seemed swept away. His friend Elihu’s answer provides us a clue to this dilemma that seems universal and for all times. You can find it in the 33rd chapter of the book of Job in the Bible.
According to Elihu, God is not silent but does speak, one way or another. God does answer always, in one or two ways, even when people don’t acknowledge His presence. Elihu points out that God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.
God speaks to us ‘in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride. He protects them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death.’
God also ‘might get their attention through pain, by throwing them on a bed of suffering, So they can’t stand the sight of food, have no appetite for their favorite treats. They lose weight, wasting away to nothing, reduced to a bag of bones. They hang on the cliff-edge of death, knowing the next breath may be their last.’
In reading this we see that God’s intention is to capture our attention so as to warn us away from evil and keep us from death. God speaks to is in visions and dreams of the night with the intention of terrifying us away from wrongdoing. Since we do not hear or notice Him, He has to reach out by other means to make us listen and take notice when we are finally in bed, resting.
God does not scare us in order to make us tremble before Him, but horrifies us so that we would refrain from felony or crime, since these would lead to death. That’s God’s agenda – to scare the hell out of us so as to keep us out of hell!
We also see that God uses pain to capture our attention and not to torture or destroy us. God’s purpose is never to punish or penalize us in a vindicative or vicious manner, but to prevent us from destroying ourselves.
C.S Lewis writes in his book, The problem of pain, that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world’’. God has His own ways of waking the conscience of us when we are absolutely heedless. Of all His many tools, pain is the loudest, for it makes us take note of His word. The psalmist, King David, declares that before he was afflicted he went astray, but now he keeps His word.
To the question as to why would God deal with us so, we can only bow low and answer that it because we our insensitivity to Him. We are so stupefied and insensible to His voice of love and reason that He has to use other means to capture our attention. We have become so incapacitated by cares, riches and pleasures that we are incapable of deciphering His words. So, God has to resort to other ways of making us hear and heed Him and give Him our attention so that we can inherit life and not destruction.
To go back to our question of whether God speaks, we can safely reply, Yes, God does speak. To the question, if so, what does He speak, we can confidently say that He speaks in order to turn us from death to life. He doesn’t speak to put fear of Himself in us, but fear of doing wrong and going to hell.
The crowning glory of the fact that God speaks is found in the first chapter of the book of Hebrews in the Bible: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;’
If God speaks warnings through dreams, captures our attention through pain, what does He want to convey to us through His only Son, Jesus? What else but that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death of the cross and the way to Him has been made open by the blood of Christ!
God, through His Son, is speaking to us of reconciliation and peace with Him. He is telling us that we have access to Him through Christ. He is inviting the world to a relationship with Him and a communion with one another, made possible by the sacrifice of His Son. He is not just terrifying us to keep us from wrongdoing and hell, but also showing us the ways and means to read h Him and heaven!
Would we heed His call, the gentle still small voice of our Creator through His Son or are we going to force Him to use other means of persuasion?
The choice is ours, as He waits in the sidelines for us to hear and obey, out of our own freewill!
Whenever I watch a movie that pits a small force against a larger enemy, I always look for the battle strategy by which the smaller army conquers the larger one. It excites me to see a bigger enemy, who comes into battle confident of gaining the upper hand because of the sheer number of people on their side, made to bite the dust by a smaller opponent through their sharper wits and smarter battle plans.
It thrilled me to watch: Prince Caspian’s force emerge from beneath the ground to encircle the enemy in the film of that name; Scottish King Robert Bruce vanquish a larger English force by impaling the enemy cavalry with spears hidden in the muddy terrain in the movie The Outlaw King; the American Robert Martin hoodwink and rescue his men from the English Lord Cornwallis in The Patriot and other such clever strategies in military and combat movies.
Interesting though these warcraft are, nothing can beat God’s battle strategies and plans that help His people win over foes stronger than themselves. The instances portrayed in films can be appreciated, the superb planning involved marvelled at and, even though these appear as unexpected twists in the tale, they can be fully understood. However, when compared to the art of war in the Bible, these pale in contrast to that which is exhibited by the Lord. God’s warfare and strategies are truly out of this world because they are often dependent on irrelevant and irrational actions that are precursors for victory or defeat.
Take, for example, the time Israel fought the Amalekites in the desert after the Red Sea Crossing as reported in Exodus chap 17. Fresh out of Egypt, rescued from bondage through ten miraculous acts of God that brought the then world power to its knees, led by an able warrior, Joshua, Israel had the ability and mental capacity to overcome this attack. Yet their victory and defeat did not rest on such strengths, but were hinged on their leader Moses holding his hands raised in the air or not while watching the battle from a hilltop. It seems such an irrational way of winning a battle, but that was how God worked it out for them!
Why did God make such moves as the battle turning for good or bad depending on whether Moses kept his hands raised or not? The reason is not hard to figure out: Four hundred years of bondage under a violent and harsh nation would have taught them the efficacy and advantage of brute force as well as strength. Israel was chosen to be God’s people, His royal priesthood and the people of His pasture. They had to learn to do everything not by might nor power but by Him.
They had to understand that their dependency on Him would be the reason for their success or failure. They were to cleave to Him and obey Him fully and totally. They had to learn this lesson before they entered the promised land and started live among others who did not follow Yahweh. God was teaching them this lesson and inculcating this into their beings so that when they were among other people groups, they would function as His people. Israel had to learn the secret of their existence – their relationship with Yahweh and their allegiance and obedience to Him!
Consider another time when they had crossed over the river Jordan to the land God promised to them through their ancestor Abraham. The first city they had to conquer was Jericho, one of the strongest cities of their times, a walled and defenced city, strong enough to withstand any invasion. It was a veritable fortress and conquering it would be the key for their conquest of the whole land.
Joshua, their commander is met by the commander of the army of God who then outlines the battle plan to conquer the city they are targeting. He tells Joshua that for 6 days the whole army of Israel should walk silently around the city once each day. On the 7th day they must go around 7 times, 6 times in silence as before, but the 7th time they must shout and charge straight ahead of them at the sound of the trumpet.
Any commander would consider seeking out the weak points in the battlements and using them to attack the city as the logical battle plan. God asks Joshua to do something that looked foolish in the eyes of men. The people of Jericho must have first looked on with incredulity, then with astonishment and finally with ridicule at the spectacle of an army marching in silence around the city they wanted to conquer. Israel had to bear it all and quietly rest in their tents, without reacting to their taunts and mockery.
Nothing is more difficult to bear than ridicule and it is hard to stand by or keep quiet or be without reacting at such times. Israel could not allow itself to be triggered into action or do something to prove they are not sissies. They remained faithful to the strategy given them by God through Joshua and won a great victory. They did not allow their own doubts or misgivings to distract them and they did not allow their own thinking to disrupt their obedience to God’s battle plan.
In the case of the Jericho strategy, it was not Israel who had to learn a lesson, but the nations around them. They had go know that Israel had a supernatural protecting force that would fight on their behalf. Israel was coming into the land as new settlers and the nations around had to be made aware of them being the people of Yahweh, so that the other nations would beware His power and allow Israel to dwell in safety and security. It was an object lesson for the nations around and indeed the Gibeonites came to make peace for this reason and because of the demonstration of God’s power on behalf of Israel!
It would often seem that God is a poor general and indeed this is a comment by Rameses, Pharaoh of Egypt in the movie Ten Commandments when he finds Israel trapped before the Red Sea. Pharaoh thought he had the Israelites under his mercy for he didn’t understand God’s battle plan. The Lord totally destroyed the Egyptian army, burying them in a watery grave under the waters of the Red Sea when they thought they could easily overpower Israel by their military prowess. Egypt that day ended up, not only losing its firstborns, but also its army, one that was feared for its invincibility during that period of world history. Moses’ song at that time declares His might: The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, the Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, the Lord, shattered the enemy (Exo 15:3-6).
To answer the question why God allowed this confrontation and made Israel go throw this crisis when they had just escaped 400 years of tyranny and bondage is again answered in Moses song: In your unfailing love, you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone – until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance – the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established Exo (15:13-17). This is what exactly happened!
God never wastes His moves, but is always completely in control of the fight. He is an able General, a Master Strategist and Victorious Veteran of many successful missions. He knows what He is doing or how He is directing, and as His people we need to fully trust Him. The way He directs or plans the fight will be contrary to ours, often incomprehensible and seemingly foolish.
Apostle Paul well puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians and answers the question of why God’s combat operations are different and His plans appear nonsensical. It is because We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. He points out that this so since We are not fighting against human enemies. Instead, we are fighting against the rulers and the powerful spirits that have authority over this dark world. We are fighting against the bad spirits who live in the heavens (Eph 6:12 EASY).
God’s war mode may not fit our thinking process or our working style, but it brings total vanquishing od the enemy. It is ok to not be able to comprehend His strategy, but it is very important to obey it. If you want a complete rout of the enemy, you better hear and obey His strategy, unintelligent though it may seem to you. God knows what He is about and He plans with a far reaching eye about what is to come, who is to be touched, how it should effect and where it should impact. Therefore, it behoves us to follow His instructions implicitly, even when we don’t fathom them. He has more experience and expertise than anyone on earth or heaven. We must trust that God knows what He is about, even if we don’t!
In this pandemic period, let’s take care to follow His leading in our daily fight against negativities and negative situations of life that we are seeing and facing, daily!
We are people who need hard evidence to feel safe and secure. We need to see money in the bank, cash in hand, provisions in the home, etc to feel comfort and comfortable. We are living in times and seasons where hard evidence in hand is needed for us to feel protected.
Yet, that’s not how our God works or seeks to assure. He is beyond and above the natural, the physical and the visible. His works are inspite of appearances and evidences, independent of what you see or hear or feel. His works transcend the natural senses and normal answers.
For example, in the Bible we see the prophet Elijah is sent to a widow in Zarephath during a famine. When Elijah encounters the woman picking sticks in order to cook her last meal for herself and her son, before succumbing to death as she is down to her last bit of flour and oil, The prophet tells her to share her meal with him and declares to her “For this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ”1 Kings 17:14 NIV. We see that indeed that’s what happened She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:15-16
The way of the Lord is always diammetrically opposite and contrary to the belief system of this world. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts far removed from ours, as far as the heavens are from the earth. That’s the gap between His thinking process and ours, a world of difference!
To live under the economy and provision of God and His Kingdom, you don’t need concrete evidence or hard facts. You just need to have faith, which of course is the real evidence of things invisible and substance of things unseen.
Let’s see more evidence of such working of God in the history of the prophet Elisha, the protege of Elijah. A prophet’s wife whose husband, a faithful man of God, was dead approached Elisha for help to save her sons from the money lenders who had come to take her sons in lieu of her debt. Elisha simply asks her what do you have in the house. When she replies she has a little oil, he asks her to borrow vessels from neighbours and pour out the oil. She obeys him and finds the oil run out only after she has filled all the vessels available. He then tells her to sell the oil and pay the debt. The point is that the prophet took what was available to birth a miracle by God’s power that rested on him.
God doesn’t need evidence of abundance to do a miracle or to supply your needs. He just needs and uses what is available to meet the need of the hour. He doesn’t see what is not there, but sees what you have in hand and will use that to meet your lack. He never will condemn or chide when something is not there, but will always increase what is available or what you have with you. So don’t focus on what you don’t have, but focus on what you she for that is enough for God to meet your needs.
God is never constrained just by lack but also evidence about it. He is constrained only by a lack of faith and never by lack of resources! Nothing can prevent His power from flowing or His munificence from meeting our needs, except lack of faith! His hand is not shortened nor His arm restricted that He can’t provide care for you, but you can prevent or tie it up by your lack of faith!
Take another example, when hard evidence declares an emergency situation and shows what is in hand is insufficient to meet the current need. Jesus asks His disciples to feed the multitude, about 5000+ people, and all they have is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. What they have in hand is, in the opinion of His disciples, not enough to feed the people, but Jesus is unfazed by the meagreness of what is in hand. He just lifts what is in hand to God in prayer, blesses it and asks His men to distribute to the multitude. They end up not only feeding all the people, but also gather up 12 basketfuls of leftovers, one for each of his team to carry home to their families. God is not limited by what is at hand nor hampered by what is seen to meet our needs, not frugally or beggarly or miserly,but royally and abundantly!
The economy of His Kingdom, His rule and reign are not based on or dependent on lack of evidence or concreteness of visible facts, but on the capacity and the capability of His power and glory. You cannot draw from His store or His benefits without an exchange or a currency. The currency by which His Kingdom operates and by which you can get His provision is simple and easy. It is faith that is the hard cash that will enable you to live off and from His storehouse.
You don’t need cash in hand, money in the bank, investment in stocks or even a healthy financial portfolio to be cared for by Him or fed by Him. All you need is faith, faith in His ability, faith in His capacity and faith in His propensity to meet your needs. You just need to trust Him and live every day under His patronage through faith. He has promised to take care and He will, inspite of circumstance, lack of visible evidence or even your ability to provide.
He has enough and more in His hand to supply all our needs and the heart to bless His children with good things, day after day.
So don’t be disturbed by what you don’t have or depressed by what the little you do have, but be thankful for what you do have since that is enough for God to use or reuse!
Just trust Him and submit to Him, totally. Throw yourself illy on Him and He will protect, provide and please you with His Providence and beneficial munifence.
Don’t be disturbed by what you see or what you hear or what others say or even by what you know to be true to your sense and commonsense!
Just learn to walk by faith and not by your natural senses!
Don’t be limited by what you have in hand.
Be thrilled by the blessing of unlimited supply by a limitless God!
Saturate yourself, not with daily news reports or news analysis, but soak yourself totally in His Word for we need it to live in these times.
Do not live by what is evident, but live by His Word, daily!
Feed on it and live by it daily and you will see evidence of His care, concern and compensation, every day, day after day!
*Pics courtesy unsplash.com, shutteestock.com and google images
In the Bible, in the history of the nation of Israel, we note two distinct phases of life and distinct ways of existence.
One, while in the wilderness, after being delivered from slavery in Egypt., and two, when they settled down in the promised land, after driving out those who lived there.
Both seasons saw them being helped and aided by the mighty and outstretched arm of God. In both, God was the Anchor of their life, the Provider and the Support of all they needed to be a nation. Be it protection, provision or preservation, He was the Shepherd and the Staff of their being a sovereign nation.
The difference between these two seasons of life was the way in which He provided for them and the manner by which He met their needs!
In the wilderness, He was their Guide and Shepherd in every sense of the word, ‘going ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night’ (Ex 13:21-22). He sought out their resting places, led them by a way they did not know and took care of their every need – providing them daily with manna from heaven, opening rocks for water, providing shade with a huge cloud by day and light for their dark nights by a pillar of fire. He caused the east wind to rain quail, sweetened their rest with fruit trees, protected them from disease and the plagues of Egypt, and saw to it that their clothes did not wear out nor their feet swell all through the years of their desert wandering!
He protected them from the marauding bands and gave them the right leaders to judge their grievances. He covenanted with them to be their God and gave them his laws, forming them into a nation with an identity, equipping them to be an army and a host with proper ranks of families and tribes, tribal leaders and even an ordered way of pitching their tents around the tabernacle!
He converted them from a ragtag band of escaped slaves into a holy nation by endowing them with a proper and disciplined way of life, a social structure and a culture of worship that would set them apart and distinguish them as His people!
When they reached the promised land, He divided the land to them and settled them in it, causing them to inherit lands, vineyards, houses and cities which they didn’t plant, build or create and gave them a safe place to prevail as a nation. He blessed all their labour, giving them rain in season, healed their disease, oversaw the whole nation with leaders to govern and prophets to warn. He did not allow strangers or any other nation to overtake or overpower them, as long as they remained loyal to Him.
God was their Source and Guide, not just in the wilderness, but also in the land of their settlement.
In both, their provision, protection and preservation depended on only one criterion – that they would be loyal to Him and exhibit their allegiance by adhering to the laws He gave them for their own good!
Wilderness is a place of simple fare, just-what-is-needed-for-the-day supply, deficient of variety and with just sufficient provision-for-the-day being the only guarantee!
It is a life of total dependency on God for everything, an exhilarating but hand-to-mouth existence if you see it the way!
Yet it was the time that the next/new generation developed strength, stamina and stability to become a warrior nation, able to hold it’s own in the new land, quite unlike their fathers who still had the namby-bamby attitude of slaves and cried when told there were giants besides the good things in the land they had to possess!
In the wilderness, monotony birthed gluttony, uncertainty gave rise to grumbling and anxiety to rebellion, all of which were an affront to the God Who carried the Israelites ‘as a father carries his son’ (Deut 1:31). In spite of the fact that He gave them a demonstration of His power at the beginning of their journey, destroying their pursuers in the Red Sea parting, they did not understand that He led them all the way in the wilderness for forty years, humbled them, causing them to hunger and then fed them with manna, which no one had known before, in order to teach them ‘that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’ (Deut 8:2-3)!
In these COVID days and in the aftermath of the quarantine days, we have moved from a predictable cycle of life to not knowing what tomorrow brings. We have moved from certainty to uncertainty, from variety of choices to a modicum of monotony and from sedentary placidity to unexpected changes and challenges.
The call facing us today is whether we will win over the dangers of the wilderness or imitate their conduct, testing Him with our impertinence!
We will have to determine whether we will depend on Him for our needs and provision, trust Him for our sustenance and learn to live by the new standards of His Word rather than of this world, daily!
We will have to decide whether we will grumble and murmur like them or imitate the One who faced the same temptation in the same landscape and was victorious in living by His Word (Matt 4)!
Personally, my family and I know the provision and care of God beyond the natural. When we pledged our allegiance to Him long year’s ago, we went through a season of trials in the area of our finances, health and relationships. God taught us to live by faith in our finances, trust in His Word for our healing and gave us a glimpse of the glorious riches of being part of His family.
We went through a season of financial constraint and had to depend on the supernatural provision, whenever and wherever the natural fell short!
We had ample instances where we saw His care of us. Once when my dad ran out of fuel in his bike on his way home, no money in hand or a petrol bunk at hand, he just borrowed a bottle of water from a hut nearby, filled his tank with it, prayed and drove the remaining 15 km home with that as fuel in his tank!
We lived constantly in the miraculous. I remember the time when I longed for an apple, a luxury at that time and asked God as my Father to provide it. Two days later, an unexpected visitor gifted us with a whole basketful!
Nothing thrilled us more than to have such evidence of His presence and the reality of His concern for us. It helped cement our faith and trust in Him!
Our God is yesterday, today and forever the same. He has not changed nor has He abdicated as our King!
It is time to understand what stuff we are made up and gird ourselves to walk a new model of living.
It is time for us to know, understand and accept that our seasons have changed. It is time for us to trust in God for everything and not depend on our regular sources/resources, but adapt to an unusual way of life!
He will be our Source, whatever may happen and however uncertain the days ahead maybe.
It is time for us to rest secure in the immutability of His nature, the immensity of His care and the irrationality of His supernatural provision for us!
It is time for us to adjust to the new economy and learn to live under the economy and provision of God!