How do we face an unknown future?
When the people of Israel escaped their slave existence in Egypt, their challenges had just begun. There had been 70 people who initially travelled to Egypt to escape the ravages of a seven year long famine. Those were the sons of the man Israel (Jacob) and their families. Now after four hundred years of slavery, the nation that bore Israel’s name were numbered at well over a million. Imagine a million slaves stumbling into the desert with no clear destination! The plan for what was to happen next wasn’t very clear. What was clear was that there was no plan B. The only thing behind them was the Red Sea and thousands of dead Egyptian soldiers. The only options available to them were Moses, the road ahead, and a God they thought had forgotten them long ago. Where do you begin when everything you have ever known has been swept away? How do you move forward to a future than isn’t clear?
Those questions sound pretty familiar don’t they?
Our present is spent up a moment at a time. Each moment gets shoved back into the past whether we are ready to let it go or not. Our past is a collection of successes and failures, laughter and tears, and while there is encouragement to be had and lessons to be learned by looking at our past, just like the people of Israel, going back to live there isn’t really an option. We are therefore left to plod forward into our own deserts. The future may seem uncertain, but it’s unavoidable. Which leaves us with the question: what do you do when you don’t know where the path forward is leading?
The first step in any journey is to assess your thinking. The thoughts we think drive everything we do and everything we feel. The goal is to focus on what we have and not on whatever it is that we don’t currently possess. For the people of Israel this meant forgetting the predictability they had known in Egypt. Obsessing over the fact that they didn’t really know where they were going would not be helpful either. There was no use in worrying about the desert terrain or anything else they couldn’t predict or control. Their journey started with focusing on what they did have, freedom (after 400 years, they were no longer slaves), hope (God was promising to give them a home), and the presence of God in their midst. The more they soaked in thoughts of their freedom, and the hope they had, and that God was with them, the more clearly they would be able to think, and the better they would feel.
I can spend way too much time thinking about things I don’t have, or that I don’t know, or that I can’t control. How about you?
What thoughts are you thinking that aren’t taking you anywhere? What thoughts only bring worry and confusion? What are you trying to control, that is uncontrollable? What unknown things are you trying to predict? Life is unbearable when we become preoccupied with things beyond our control, especially when better thoughts are available to us. Like the Israelites, we have freedom, hope, and the presence of God with us on our journey. When we return our mind to these things we find comfort and purpose.
May you find respite from the unknown which troubles your mind, and may God give you peace.