What feels most tedious to you? Perhaps repetitious and unnecessary? I may be dating myself here, but whenever I consider God’s training, I’m reminded of the movie the Karate Kid. His coach actively invested in him, not by giving him great feats to overcome but rather training him through monotonous, ordinary tasks—washing and waxing a car. Painting. While we don’t for certain how long this went on, the footage indicates some time. Long enough for Daniel, the one doing all the work, to grow frustrated.
Why? Because he didn’t know his trainer well, and therefore didn’t trust him. In his absence of knowledge, he allowed falsehoods to grow: He determined his coach was not only not kind and caring, but was in fact manipulative. He felt certain the man was using Daniel for his own gain. As a result, Daniel wanted to quit. Had he done so, his story would’ve had a vastly different ending. That epic match where he conquered his enemy for good, in front of a cheering crowd? Never would’ve happened.
Daniel would’ve remained stuck. Stuck in his fear. Stuck in his ongoing pain as he dodged his enemy each day. Stuck in his defeat.
I’ve been tempted to remain stuck.
It took me twenty years, numerous moves, and attending eight different colleges in five different states to earn my degree. With each relocation, I waited to establish residency then pulled out my thick binder of dates and colleges, sent transcript requests to each, figured out what classes did and didn’t transfer. There were times I wondered, “Why bother.” Times when I could entertain lots of reasons, in fact, that I shouldn’t. The classes were expensive. I’d spent over half of my life without a degree and had gotten along just fine. And if I had to take conflict resolution one more time, I was pretty sure I’d scream. (And I may have. The irony was not lost on me.)
I’ve also been tempted to remain stuck in relationships and negative patterns of behavior, because sometimes the journey to change just feels too hard. Too painful, too long, and perhaps even a little too uncertain. Not because the outcome is indeed uncertain. Scripture promises otherwise. We know God will use everything we experience for our good, to mold us into the radiant, life-giving men and women He created us to be.
We know this in our head. But sometimes, trudging forward day after day, especially if it feels we’re getting absolutely nowhere, we can forget. We’re tempted to run ahead of God, or maybe dart right when He’s leading left or left when He’s telling us to turn right. Because in that moment of monotony, our wisdom suddenly seems brilliant, so brilliant, in fact, we feel we don’t need to wait on God.
Oh, how foolish can we be?
Looking back over my life, the early days of my marriage especially, the answer was—pretty foolish. Thankfully, God’s been patient with me, persistently nudging me toward increased health and freedom. Many times, this looked like a lot of apologizing, a lot of marriage classes and more than a few counseling appointments. A lot of difficult conversations where we passed the “talking remote” between us to keep the discussion balanced. This process was hard, many times frustrating. There were months where we not only felt we made zero progress but where we actually seemed to be slipping the other direction.
But because we kept at it, our marriage never become stuck—stuck in the hard, in the dysfunction, in the confusion and false perceptions.
I wonder what God was doing internally, in each of the Israelites’ lives and families, as He led them, day after day, through the desert. What attitudes was God adjusting? What falsehoods regarding His heart and His ways was He systematically correcting? What wounds was He healing through the monotony, the routine, the leading and the following? What relationships was he forging or strengthening?
Hot, dry, tiring desert situations have a way of causing all our inner gunk to rise to the surface.
I’m certain this occurred with each of the Israelites, young and old, mature and immature, as they followed the cloud of God’s presence further and further from all they knew. All that was hard and defeating, yes, but familiar and predictable just the same.
Scripture tell us, “On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran” (Numbers 10:11-12).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to camp. I like the fresh air, staring up at the night sky, the scent of burning wood, and the soothing sounds of nature. I do not like all the work involved, however. Packing everything into the car, unpacking it at the campground. Setting up the tent, arranging all your sleeping gear, finding wood, building a fire to cook (or heat) your dinner on. Waiting for cold river water to boil for coffee in the morning. (So painful!)
You might disagree, when considering a night, a weekend, or even a week. But what if you did this day after day after day? Erecting the campground each night, tearing it down each morning. Walking further, only to do it again.
Can you imagine the bickering, the fighting and crying and whining? The cold food the sore feet, the unkind words spoken in the midst of fatigue. Each moment an opportunity for growth, for radical transformation. Yet, when you read the full story, one thing becomes clear: Most of the Israelites remained stuck. Stuck in their disbelief. Stuck in negative patterns of behavior, in sin, in their miserable small-story thinking.
In whatever monotonous deserts we find ourselves in, may we choose to respond differently. May we choose to trust, to lean on Jesus, and to let Him grow us into something beautiful. Because as we yield to Him, that’s precisely what He does.
Let's Talk about this! What is God teaching you now? What is He trying to grow in you? Most importantly, how are you cooperating with Him in this? Share your thoughts here in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.Thriving With Chronic Illness helpful. You can find that HERE.
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.