Yesterday I heard an excellent sermon by Roger Bye which was focused on the story of Caleb as told in the book of Joshua. Specifically how he clung onto God’s promise that he would enter the promise land for 45 years! (Joshua 14:6-13) During this very long wait, Roger mentioned he probably felt at points bitter, angry, confused and full of self-pity about why it had taken so long. Yet Caleb did not let this define him; he remained close to God (v8) and was eager and ready to go when the time came (v11).
This is really challenging for me, God has spoken promises over my life and they haven’t happened yet. In fact God seems to be taking me on a very indirect route with illness. I find it hard not to get impatient and I have not been waiting anywhere near as long as Caleb! One thing I do know though, when they are fulfilled it will be in God’s perfect timing and way, he knows what he is doing and he is as interested in how I change on the journey as on the destination. In fact I am very glad of the changes God has made in my character through long-term illness and how he has developed my faith and trust in him through hard times. I would have never chosen this path myself but I can testify as it says in Romans 8:28 that ‘…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
This does not however mean that day-to-day life isn’t hard; life with a long standing illness can be a real slog on bad days! On such days it can be really difficult to cling onto God’s promises and to find our identity in Christ not in our circumstances. However the amazing reality is that if we are being defined by our current situation, or by past hurts, Jesus wants to set us free (Galatians 5:1)! He wants to ‘Break Every Chain’ as the Jesus Culture song says. He wants to give us his peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7 ESV) each and every day.
So my prayer for you and for me today is that God would work in our hearts and enable us not to be defined by illness or struggles but by him. Also that he would give us the strength and perseverance to continue to cling to the promises God has made over our lives.
If you would like to listen to the whole of Roger’s sermon entitled ‘Pressing on For More’, it is available here.