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When I told our kids we were going to Buttermilk Falls, I could expect two equally sincere reactions: "Oh good!" and "Oh no!" See, the "oh good" part was because it was just one of the "coolest" places in our area to go. There was this high, cascading waterfall, tucked in a remote place that few people knew about, magnificent to look at and it was fun to hike around. The "oh no" part was because of the road to get to this special spot. Think like moonscape - potholes big enough to swallow an old Volkswagen. You couldn't avoid these craters; they were everywhere. So you went about as slow as a car can go, bracing yourself for a big bump after another big bump. And then you were there, and it was great!
You know, lots of life's beautiful places are accessible this very same way - by means of a bumpy road. Maybe you're traveling one of those hard, even painful, bumpy roads right now. I imagine some people never made it to the majesty of the falls because the bumpy road made them decide to turn back - a temptation that may have occurred to you on your road. But any member of our family can tell you it was worth the trip. We did, in fact, go back multiple times; knowing full well that the process was not going to be fun. I guess it's kind of like labor in that regard - a painful process that every birth mother goes through, with a beautiful result that lasts a lifetime. And, often, she'll go back and do it again.
Our word for today from the Word of God may be a picture of the journey you're on right now. In Deuteronomy 1:19, God says to His ancient people, "We set out from Horeb (that's Mt. Sinai) through all that vast and dreadful desert." That could be where you are right now - traversing one of life's "vast and dreadful deserts." But that's not the end of the story. Listen in Deuteronomy 1:21 to where that desert journey led: "See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
That's what the desert road, the bumpy road can do to you: makes you afraid, makes you discouraged, unless you focus on your Lord instead of your load, or on the result more than on the process. The bumps can make you wonder if you're even on the right road. Which you are, if God led you on it. The long, hard ride can leave you confused and hurting from all the bumps, all focused on yourself. If you're not careful, you'll turn around and leave the road God put you on; the road that ultimately leads to the Promised Land that He wants to give you.
But it doesn't feel very much like Promised Land right now. It's just downright bumpy. What a tragedy, though, if you went through this painful process and bailed out before the beautiful result. The desert, the bumpy road - they're all part of the Plan. It's in the wilderness that you, like God's people of old, see Red Seas part, water come from rocks, and manna come from heaven. It's on the hard road that you get rid of the junk that's keeping you from God's best. It's there that you're forced to abandon all self-reliance and learn total reliance on your Lord. That's when you're ready for your Promised Land.
So don't doubt in this darkness what God has told you in the light. There is no Promised Land without a wilderness. There is no new life without the pain of labor. There is no Easter morning without a Good Friday. Yes, this is a very bumpy road. But it leads to a very beautiful place if you won't turn back.
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