This week, we will be wrapping up our series “Finding Your Way Again” with a brief summary of the topics we’ve been discussing in this worship series on discernment. To catch up on messages you missed, visit our YouTube Channel. You can always catch up using our app: download by texting “medfordapp” to 833/700-2226.
15 On the day the dwelling was erected, the cloud covered the dwelling, the covenant tent. At night until morning, the cloud appeared with lightning over the dwelling. 16 It was always there. The cloud covered it by day, appearing with lightning at night. 17 Whenever the cloud ascended from the tent, the Israelites would march. And the Israelites would camp wherever the cloud settled. 18 At the Lord’s command, the Israelites would march, and at the Lord’s command they would camp. As long as the cloud settled on the dwelling, they would camp. 19 When the cloud lingered on the meeting tent for many days, the Israelites would observe the Lord’s direction and they wouldn’t march. 20 Sometimes the cloud would be over the dwelling for a number of days, so they would camp at the Lord’s command, marching again only at the Lord’s command. 21 Sometimes the cloud would settle only overnight, and they would march when the cloud ascended in the morning. Whether it was day or night, they would march when the cloud ascended. 22 Whether it was two days, or a month, or a long time, the Israelites would camp so long as the cloud lingered on the dwelling and settled on it. They wouldn’t march. But when it ascended, they would march. 23 They camped at the Lord’s command and they marched at the Lord’s command. They followed the Lord’s direction according to the Lord’s command through Moses.
There are times when our way forward seems clear. Many of us are exceptional at setting goals and creating plans to get there.
But there are moments in all of our lives when our ability to plan breaks down: when paths that once seemed very clear no longer seem to offer the same level of certainty or security. We might experience this personally after the death of a loved one, in the wake of a divorce, or navigating career changes after losing a job.
There are also times when it seems the whole society’s path forward has broken down – can anyone say, pandemic? That certainly upended everything, from everyday social interactions, to remote work, to global supply chains. Then you layer in political gridlock, climate crisis, and out-of-control inflation, and suddenly nothing seems to work like it once did.
In these moments, we need to re-learn certain spiritual skills. Chief among them is discernment, which is key to finding our way again in moments like this.
We tend to function by looking at the long-term – thinking about what we’ll do next month, next year, in five years. It’s easy, when we’re confident in those things, to forget all about God. We’re the ones in charge!
But when things fall apart, we don’t have any choice. We realize that a lot of life is beyond our control. And we become like the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness. What we need in those times is direction for today: the next step, the next gig, the next right choice. Every day for forty years, the people traveled based on God’s direction: when the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. Sometimes they stopped for a long time. Other times it was only overnight. I’m sure the unpredictability of the situation wore on the people after a while. And yet they persevered, watching and waiting for God’s direction day by day.
This is a difficult way to live. But in these moments, I’m convinced that our ability to listen for God’s direction is precisely the thing we need. It goes against our nature to cede control to God. It goes against our nature to wait for guidance. It goes against our nature to slow down and listen as intently as we should.
But when we are lost, there’s no other way to find our way again. In these moments, people of faith discern direction from God rather than deciding it for themselves.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Think back over your life for a moment. Which mode do you prefer to operate in: discerning or deciding? When have you felt the presence of God most powerfully? Are there areas of your life demanding a discernment approach right now?
Prayer: Dear God, help me today to be open to your leading. Help me to practice the discipline of waiting, listening, and moving according to your direction. Let me neither run ahead nor lag behind. In Jesus’ name, amen.