It was a sad time in our lives, nearly twenty years ago. Our beloved church of nineteen years went through a horrendous upheaval, changing us all forever. We had experienced the deep, abiding presence of God (in every service!) during a mighty, sovereign move of God which lasted nearly nine years. I frequently said to the Lord in my heart, “I will never go back to anything less than this.”
Then, the unthinkable happened. Our dear pastor fell apart emotionally and resigned. People were understandably wounded by the sudden loss and resulting change. Many blamed the pastor, each other, and even the revival we had experienced and loved for so long. The division between us was heartbreaking. God’s presence could no longer be felt in our services.
The day came when a new pastor was hired, and the reaction of some went beyond relief to an idea which shocked me. I heard several people gleefully saying, “Isn’t it great? Now we can go back to the days of ‘Pastor Jones'” (a previous pastor from before the time of the revival). And I thought, “They can go back if they want to, but I can never go back.”
Now, I had very much enjoyed the ministry of “Pastor Jones” myself, back in the day. He was a wonderful person and one of the most accurate Bible teachers I have ever heard speak. But God’s presence was not mightily, tangibly felt among us then, except on rare occasions when the Spirit moved. It was not what I had since tasted and was unwilling to ever step away from again. Our family moved on.
While I couldn’t agree with them, I did understand why people wanted to go back to what they had known a decade before. They wanted to forget the deep pain by reverting back to an era remembered for its stability and comfortableness. Our human nature loves those things. The unknown makes us nervous!
The Israelites reacted the same way, once Moses led them out of Egypt. When they were challenged by their journey through the wilderness, even though God was taking care of them all along the way, they became uncomfortable, complained, and reminisced about how great it had been in Egypt — totally forgetting that they had been abominably oppressed in slavery there!
They were willing to live without the demonstration of God’s power, as long as they knew what was coming next.
While our natural tendency is to cling to the comfort of the familiar, God wants much more for us. He is always moving forward, and He loves to take His people on new adventures. However, we often prefer to camp in what appears to be a safe spot. We need to realize He is not a stay-in-your-comfort-zone kind of God. As C. S. Lewis put it in The Chronicles of Narnia series, Aslan (depicting Jesus) is not a tame lion, and neither is He safe.
You know, while God is not “safe,” He always keeps us safe when we move ahead into new territory with Him. (His “new” always stays within the boundaries of Scripture, so, as a caution, if we’re into something new which is not in keeping with His Word, it’s not really the Lord leading it.) But He does want to expose us to new things, planned in detail by Him.
It will often look scary in the moment. We might question Him, “Why is this happening?” “How are we going to get out of this place?” “Do You see what’s going on? And aren’t You going to do something about it???!!!”
He might explain things to us, or He might simply say, “I know what I’m doing. You’re just going to have to trust Me and know that I’ve got this.”
Every one of us, if we are going to experience all the Lord has for us, must make a conscious choice. We can be like the Israelites, who desired to go back to Egypt and the life they had known there, or we can swallow hard, take Jesus’ hand, and agree to let Him lead us into unfamiliar, seemingly unsafe territory, keeping in mind that we are always safe with Him.