I am prone to long bouts of melancholy when life gets stressful. Existing problems magnify themselves, I grow to worry about problems that don’t yet exist, and the resulting mass of stresses becomes crippling. Sometimes, swamped with my mess of fears, I cry out to God, commit my worries to him, and plow ahead, unafraid of–or at least unconcerned with–failure.
Recently such a time of stress and darkness came to a head, and it seemed I was delivered miraculously from my troubles. Not by my hard work or some inner strength, this deliverance was entirely undeserved, a free gift. The days that followed were filled with joy, sunshine, and fresh air. My life took an upward turn, and just kept ascending. Each day was better than the last. Soon all my trials lay in the past, forgotten.
“So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
Men have a habit of forgetting where they came from. When life is good, we shove our troubles into the past, and dwell in the present. We cry out for deliverance from our enemies, and when we are delivered, we forget they ever existed. And when our Egypt is forgotten, why should we remember the one who brought us out?
“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’”
In the wake of deliverance, as land and wealth and freedoms accumulate, we begin to think that they belong to us. It was our own brilliance, our own unique insight, our skills and strengths and mighty arms that won the day. We built these cities with our own two hands, we raised these crops, this is our land.
But it is not. What was a gift in the day of deliverance, what looked like salvation in the deepest pits, remains so when we have grown used to our new graces. Salvation and later glory have always been out of our hands, and always will be. What the Lord gives, the Lord can take, and still his name is blessed. It is his to do with as he pleases.
“Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.”
There is no worse fate than to grow apart from the God of the Universe. Nothing is worse than to be disconnected from the one who gives life, and gives it meaning.
Not all times of trial are a curse. The ordinary pressures of life and the consequences of our foolish actions fall on our heads, not always as a punishment, but as a blessing. Better to suffer from time to time than to grow rich and forget the one who made us so. Better a life of wear and tear with thanksgiving than a life of ease with pride. The troubles of one are superficial and temporary. The dark heart of the other is eternal and spoils all we might enjoy.
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.”
Have a blessed week.