How to handle the giants in your land of milk and honey

Last week at church camp I sat in one of the best Bible classes I’ve ever had. In a class for children ages seven through nine, this thirty-nine year old lady learned more than anyone. The topic was the twelve spies who were sent to spy out Canaan in Numbers 13 and 14. I’ve heard this lesson so many times. I had even read it earlier that week. The teacher drew out the lesson on a whiteboard, showing the two spies that brought back a good report of the land and the ten who were afraid because of the giants in the land. The ten said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”

The two reminded everyone that God was with them, and He could handle the giants.

Nothing so far that I hadn’t heard before.

Then the teacher asked the question, “Did God say there wouldn’t be giants?”

The children in the room all shook their heads and called out “No!”

It’s such a simple question. The answer is obvious, and yet it is clear from the passage that the Israelites were not expecting giants. God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. He promised that the land would be theirs and that He would be with them. Whatever image the Israelite spies had in their heads about this land, it clearly did not include giants.

Did that make God a liar? Did the presence of the giants indicate that God was no longer with His people?

Of course not, and yet…

How often do I doubt God’s promises because things aren’t quite as I expected them to be?

Too often, I have to admit.

The Giants in my Land

That morning going into class, I could already relate to this story of the twelve spies. Doubting God and His faithfulness in my life is a weakness for me. It wasn’t until I heard the teacher ask that question that I understood why.

Did God say there wouldn’t be giants?

It’s not that God has ever reneged on one of His promises. He hasn’t. The problem is that I come up with my own idea of how things will be, and when they are not what I expect, I lose faith. Just like the Israelites.

The problem is that in my vision of life, there are no giants. There is only the land flowing with milk and honey. There is only the promise of victory and rest.

And all of a sudden there’s a giant standing right in the middle of it all.

God never said he wouldn’t be there, and yet I didn’t expect him.

I didn’t expect the tiredness, the discouragement, the unexpected expenses, the worries of raising a teenager. And yet there they are. Right in the middle of my land of milk and honey.

How to handle the Giants

And now I have a choice to make.

I can choose fear, or I can choose trust.

To be pleasing in God’s eyes, I follow the example of the two spies who trusted God.

“The Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:9

When a giant that I wasn’t expecting stands before me, I remember God’s promises.

 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

What stands before me may not be what I expected.

It may not be what I want.

It may not be what I thought the answer to my prayers would look like.

However, there is no need to fear.

When I keep the faith, God is still with me.

And He can handle the giants.

“But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39

Do you see the pieces or the puzzle?

A one thousand piece Yoda jigsaw puzzle sits unfinished on a table in the corner of my bedroom. The kids and their father are huge Star Wars fans, and it was a gift for Father’s Day last year.

Yes, last year, and we’re still working on it one year later. We are getting closer to completing it, though. It’s just a tough puzzle. It’s not only 1000 pieces, but each piece is a picture within a picture, a “photomosaic” it’s called.

As I sat working on it one evening last week, my oldest daughter came and sat beside me. She said “Oh, I see what that red is. It’s the other guy’s light saber.” I had no idea what she was talking about.

She explained how Yoda was holding his light saber and the red in the corner was his opponent’s light saber. I told her I was so busy looking at the pieces and the tiny pictures that I had forgotten that Yoda was even holding a light saber.

She said, “You see the pieces. I see the puzzle.”

She was right, of course. 

It’s really easy to focus so much on one tiny piece, on where it fits or doesn’t fit, that we lose sight of the big picture. We forget the overall picture that all these tiny pieces create.

We lose sight of their purpose.

Seeing the Puzzle

In my life, there are some pieces that I’m not sure what to do with. There are also those pieces I try to force into a place they’re just not meant to be. Sometimes I need to step back and look at the big picture to understand how they all fit together.

When I focus on only one tiny piece at a time, I can still fit the puzzle together, but I don’t fully appreciate it.

It helps to step back and look at the whole puzzle. When I do, I remember the purpose of those tiny pictures.

I remember that while I may not understand where each piece fits in, each piece does have a purpose in the bigger puzzle. Each piece is necessary.

Lord, help me to See

My life is my own “photomosaic” created by God. He has designed my life in such a way that each tiny piece is a necessary part of the complete picture.

I pray for eyes to see each piece in my life in the context of that bigger puzzle.

While I may not understand right now where each piece fits, I trust in the One who created the puzzle.

I pray for eyes that will be enlightened to focus not just on the pieces, but on the puzzle He created.

In doing so, I may just find a light saber I had forgotten was there.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

Lessons from my boy

Words can not express how much I love this boy. He amazes me and teaches me so much each day. Each of my children opens my eyes to a new way of seeing things. The latest lessons come from Logan after his first swim meet last week.

Logan loves swimming. He is happier in the water than most anywhere else, but this is the first year that he’s been part of an official swim team. It gives him a way to learn swimming techniques and a chance to try something new. He doesn’t even have to compete in the swim meets, but he wanted to try the first one last week.

Earlier in the week he learned the butterfly stroke. He mentioned in the car coming home that day how bad he was at it. We talked about how it would just take practice. He was just learning it, after all.

When we got to the meet on Thursday, the first event he was listed in was the butterfly of all things. Now, here is where the first of the lessons comes in.

Lesson One: Try something even if you’re not perfect at it.

I was not about to make him swim something he was not comfortable with in front of all those people. Doing anything before I am completely prepared and confident makes me seriously uncomfortable. I’ve had many a nightmare based on exactly this concept. However, not Logan. Instead, he said “Well, I’ll give it a shot.”

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Did he swim the butterfly perfectly? No, but he did it. He didn’t let fear of failure stop him. As a result, Logan walked away from the meet that night proud of himself for trying something new.

He didn’t finish first that night. In fact, he finished last. However, he was not discouraged. He had a new experience to learn from. Here is where the second of the lessons comes in.

Lesson Two: View challenges as a chance to grow.

Even though he finished last, he wants to do it again. With a smile on his face, his exact words were “Well, the good news is I have plenty of room for improvement!

Do you see why I love this boy and have so much to learn from him?

When he is not perfect at something, he sees it as a chance for growth. It’s a challenge. An opportunity.

How else do we grow but by facing a new challenge?

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

As a friend recently said to me: Growth is evidence of life.

I’m so proud of Logan for viewing this particular challenge as a chance to grow. I love watching him grow and live boldly and without fear, which leads to the third of the lessons he taught me last week.

Lesson Three: Be confident in your support.

One reason Logan has no trouble trying something new is that he doesn’t really care what other people think. I mean that in a good way. He knows that his family loves and supports him as long as he is trying his best. That gives him confidence.

Before going down to swim, Logan said “Even if I come in last, it will be okay.” I assured him it would be. The only time my children disappoint me is when they have a bad attitude or they are lazy. My children know that my husband and I are always proud of them when they do their best, regardless of the outcome.

Doesn’t our heavenly Father feel the same way about us?

In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the only servant that God is not pleased with is the one who was too afraid to do anything, the one who hid his talent in the ground.  (Matthew 25:25)

We shouldn’t let fear of failure or fear of what others think keep us from using our talents.

In John 12:42-43 the Bible speaks of those who believed in Jesus but were afraid to act upon their belief for fear of what others would think of them.

“for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” John 12:43

Logan wasn’t worried about what the people in the stands thought of him. He knew that their approval didn’t matter. He would be loved and approved of by his family no matter what.

That’s what God wants of His children.

When we feel confident in God’s love and live only to please Him, it frees us to cast aside fear and thus to grow.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

And how about a piece of pizza?

When Logan was done swimming for the night, he walked back up to where I was sitting. I smiled at him, gave him a hug, and told him I was proud of him. Then I bought him a piece of pizza. You’ve never seen such a happy boy.

My aim this week is to apply these lessons from Logan.

I want to accept a challenge as a chance to grow, confident in God’s approval, even if the outcome is not perfect.

When I live boldly and without fear, my heavenly Father will be there waiting and smiling when I finish my race.

I want to hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

At that point, it won’t matter what anyone else is saying.

I’ll have the love of my Father and my pizza. What else could I possibly need?

“But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39