When I was young, our family would spend many weekends at our camp on the Pacific Coast. I loved going to our property at Westport. I can remember looking forward to our time there from a very young age. Often, it would mean time with cousins and fun at the beach. From our inland home, it was about a 2.5 hour drive. That’s not terribly long but as a young child anticipating all the fun, it felt like forever sitting in the backseat of Mom’s car. I’m sure she got tired of me asking, “Are we there yet?”
Mom had a trick for this situation. She’d ask me a question in return, “Have we passed the chartreuse house yet?” I’d look out my window and watch for the bright green house on the hillside. Ever since, I have loved the would chartreuse. I doubt that little house is still that color. If I asked earlier in our trip she might ask, “Have you seen the Washington state capital yet?” We would drive through Olympia on our way and be able to see the domed capitol building from the freeway. Her questions would always depend upon where we were in our journey. Mom taught us to gauge how much longer by the landmarks along the way.
I would know we were close enough to smell the salt air if she asked, “Have you seen Charlie Choker?” Charlie Choker was a large carved wooden statue of the local Community College mascot. He was always the last landmark before we pulled into our property. It’s been over 40 years since I sat in the backseat with Mom driving us to Westport but I still remember those landmarks. There was security and safety in knowing what landmark came next, capitol, chartreuse house, Satsop bridge, Drive-in theater, Aberdeen, Charlie Choker, our property.
We are all on a journey this year. 2020 has been filled with so many things we have never faced before. At this point, I find myself thinking out loud, “Are we there yet?” I mean how much longer will life feel so different. And what else will show up to add fear to our already anxious lives? I’m sure like me, you’ve yelled, “Enough already!” I long for landmarks that would tell me how far we’ve come and how much longer we have. But a new path has no landmarks. So how do we find strength for this journey?
The Israelites went on a journey into the unknown when they left Egypt. They left all that they had known to follow God into the desert. There were no familiar landmarks to follow. And when they left in the dark of night and through the dry ground of the Red Sea, I am sure they had no idea that this journey would take 40 years. God took care of them. He gave them food and showed them the way with a cloud pillar during the day and a pillar of fire by night. But after 40 years, I’m sure they wondered where God was leading them and if this journey would ever end. So the words Moses he shared these words with his successor, Joshua, before his death must have been encouraging, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 1:12 NIV).
Just like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, we don’t have any landmarks to guide us but we do have God’s promise not to leave us. It is the same promise that Moses shared with Joshua. We can be assured that the Lord himself goes before us and is with us. He will not leave or forsake us. I know my heart and I will still be afraid but I know I don’t have to be discouraged because my faith is in a faithful God. And He is the only landmark I need on this journey.
You might say to me, those are pretty words but how does that work in real life? Here are some activities that I have found helpful in my own life when I have been afraid and in need of God’s leading and comfort.
- Scripture memorization – Repeat Deuteronomy 31:12 over and over again until you have it memorized. Write it down a 100 times. Meditate on it. Soak in the words. Think about what it means for God to go ahead of you . What it means to you that He doesn’t leave you or forsake you. Look up the definition of forsake. God’s word is powerful and mighty. It is a love story of God for his people.
- Sing songs of praise – Do you know any worship songs? You don’t have to sing out loud but you can also sing them in your head. I sound much better in my head than out loud. Find some praise music on Spotify or YouTube. Sing along, dance along. I find my own heart is quieted and lightened when I praise God in song.
- Find a friend to share your burdens with. You don’t have to face this alone. I know it’s harder right now because of the limits of interaction but find a friend you can share your fears with or just talk to about your day. I email a friend regularly, I’m a writer so written words are natural for me. If you need to speak your truth, there are plenty of ways to video chat. Or be really old fashion and talk on the phone. It is what they were first made to do.
In the comments, share with me what you do to feel God’s presence during tough times. Do you have any scriptures that have been especially meaningful to you during this time? Do you have any songs that help?