By Simon Peter
Quite recently I’ve been placed, or rather, put myself, into a series of “funks.” What I mean by that is that I’ve been put in a series of situations where I just don’t feel like myself. I’m overcome by sadness, by anger, or by anxiety. I’m stuck in my own head all the time, and what results is an increased desire to escape. I want to run away. I want to live in fear. I want to cower and hide. Needless to say, my “fight-or-flight” has engaged a great deal over the past few months for me. Yet, amidst the struggle, and within my “funks” where I don’t feel myself, God has been laying the foundation for a breakthrough. For me, that breakthrough has been this idea of “Keep Moving Forward.”
This concept and idea stems all the way back to early January, when my church was going over the book of Joshua. At the time, I was struggling on and off with mental health issues, relational problems with a former ex-girlfriend of mine, and a fair share of temptation along with that. Something really resonated with me while my church was going over the book of Joshua. In Joshua 1, as Joshua is being placed into a leadership position, he has to process and go through the death of Moses. And in that moment, I, like the rest of us I assume, can empathize with Joshua. He’s going through a great deal of hardship, and the person who was there to lead him and his people had just passed away. There’s a great deal of pain that had to be there. Yet in Joshua 1:2, God says this to Joshua:
“Moses, my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites.” The only thing that God says to Joshua in this moment is that Moses is dead. That’s it. There’s no “Hey buddy, let’s sit down and process this.” There’s no “I’m really sorry, but you have to keep moving.” There is only the finality of the statement “Moses is dead.” This speaks to me on a lot of different levels. But mainly, this speaks to me on what God says next. Essentially, God says to Joshua “Moses is dead, but you need to keep moving forward.” God has a plan for Israel, and it involves Joshua crossing the Jordan River to the Promised Land; a plan, mind you, that cannot be accomplished if Joshua spends too much time dwelling on the past and on Moses’ passing.
If you jump forward in Scripture to the book of Job, there’s a passage in Job 13 that illustrates a very similar point. At this point in Scripture, Job is severely “down on his luck” for lack of a better term. Practically everything that he had in his life was taken away. Everything that he had once known was essentially gone, and the people that were once on his side were condemning him for sinning against God, even though Job had a clean record. Yet, Job, amidst his brokenness, which he clearly illustrates as brokenness in the rest of the chapter (and the Book of Job, mind you), maintains one mindset. This mindset is illustrated in Job 13:15 and it says:
“Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him…” That verse is in reference to the Lord. Though God has allowed these bad things to happen to Job, he will continue to remain hopeful in the Lord and all of His providence. In simplistic terms, Job is maintaining the mentality of “Keep moving forward.” He knows that he has suffered, yet he also realizes that God has something in store for him in the future. Ergo, he intends to keep moving forward and trusting in God, despite his brokenness.
C.S. Lewis parallels this same thought in his allegory The Screwtape Letters, where he writes from the perspective of a demon. Within this allegory, Lewis states this:
“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
What Lewis gets at here is that same mentality of striving to move forward despite the environment. What does any of this have to do with us and our particular struggles? What does this have to do with our particular sins? Simply put, God has put this on my heart for a while. There are going to be times where we ultimately screw up. We will go through periods of backsliding.
We will struggle, or fall, or relapse. But just because we do that, it doesn’t mean that we should let that define us. Desiring to run away, hide, or escape ultimately does not lead to anything fruitful. God desires you to move forward. And the reason I know this to be true is because if He didn’t desire that of us, we would not be encouraged to recognize our sins before the Lord and repent of them.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
If God desired for us to stay caught up in our sins, to perpetually feel shame and guilt, he would not have sent Jesus to die for us. If we were meant to stay caught up and entangled in our past sins, struggles, failures, etc., Jesus wouldn’t have died for us. Rather, we are meant to maintain and emulate the mentalities captured in Joshua 1, Job 13, and The Screwtape Letters. Simply put, we are meant to keep moving forward. So repent of your sins, you who have struggled. Acknowledge that you cannot change the past, nor can you undo any past mistakes and failures. And come from that hoping in the Lord. Realize that He desires a great deal for you, but that goal and purpose cannot be achieved if you stay stuck in the past. Keep moving forward, and strive to obey God more clearly and fully in all that you do.
By Simon Peter