Let me be honest for a moment, I’m an avid reader- of romance novels. Sigh. I don’t care what anyone has to say about that. I have plenty of real life going on in my real life and in my job and in the world. I like escaping to that place where despite obstacles and challenges, two people find each other and get a happy ending. The Happy Ending is important to me.
Because let’s face it. Life isn’t really full of happy endings for a lot of people. There’s tremendous suffering in this world. You have seen it, heard of it, or even lived it yourself. The horrible, unspeakable, and unimaginable happen every single day.
You can get bogged down in it. You can start wondering what the point is of it all. When will it be better? Why does this feel so bad right here where I’m at? What do you do then?
I remember this motivational poster from some hallway in High School. It said, “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.” Trust me, I love to make fun of a good motivational poster, and I’ve done my share with that one. But in this instance, it’s kind of true. You have to look at your goal. What is it? Why are you here? Who are you in the scheme of it all? For me, above all, I’m a child of God. Whatever else I do, wherever else I go, I’m His. So when it ain’t right in my world, I’ve probably quit looking at Him. I’ve quit considering Him, at least in some way. I’m looking instead at my bills, or my family, or my work, or the calendar with all the STUFF that has to be done.
In the book of Numbers, there’s an account of the Israelites in the wilderness. God was leading them out of Egypt, a place they did not want to be, a place they had suffered. But, as people do, in the midst of their salvation, they grumbled and complained and spoke against God. It’s not that hard to imagine. Frankly the wilderness probably sucked big time. The people forgot that God was leading them and saving them. Probably it was easier to look at the stuff in front of them. They ignored what was really going on and focused on the things right in front of them that they didn’t like. They were tired, it was hard, it didn’t look the way they expected it to look and despite the salvation they were being given they grumbled. “Why did you bring us out here to DIE?” they said. They were impatient. I can imagine the grumbling becoming stronger, snowballing, and turning the tide of everyone. God knows it has to stop. He has to show himself. Then he sends the serpents. The fiery serpents start biting people and they are dying. Nothing like a consequence that sucks big time to refocus us, eh? They then realize in an instance that the wilderness had been salvation from the Egyptians. Now they are dying. It’s a hard place to come to that realization that you were wrong. Help us, they exclaimed, we have sinned. Please save us! They beg of Moses to intercede. So he does. What does God do?
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” (Numbers 21:8)
For the last few years, I was teaching a preschool Sunday School class. The day we covered this lesson, I read the story as I usually did. Then I started asking questions. Preschoolers give funny answers, you never know how much they paid attention or retained, so question time is quite interesting. What happened to the dying people when they looked at the serpent held high? I asked them. Isaac, age 5 raised his hand and exclaimed in a very excited voice, “They LIVED!”. The moment stuck with me. He was so excited. They had been dying and now they LIVED. They looked at their salvation and they lived.
What are you looking at?
You may not be a Christian, you may believe in a different purpose for your life, you may have a different goal. But if you’re down and you can’t shake it, it still applies. What are you looking at?
In the real world people are going to let you down. Your family, spouse, children, everyone. They will let you down. There’s only one who doesn’t let you down. The good news is that he’s even better at picking you up than the made up people in the romance novels. He loves you without limits, in a way no character in a book could even match. When I look at His sacrifice for me, and remember that, like it’s my fiery serpent up on a stick, I live.