The more you read the Bible, the more it seems like certain themes and events are set to play on a loop. God calling a barren woman like Hannah, Sarah, or Rachel, and then opening her womb as a miracle of grace. God using the youngest or the least—David, Joseph, or Gideon—to do things that no one thought could be done. Over and over again, some things just keep coming back around. It’s almost as if God were trying to tell us something!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how often God permitted His people to experience famine. Repeatedly, the Lord—who could have easily prevented the problem and spared His people the pain—allowed such a grave and potentially deadly situation to impact His children’s lives. I’m sure there are several powerful lessons to be learned, but one of the constants in those Bible stories is that, in order to survive and thrive, God’s people had to get up and go somewhere else.
Abraham and Sarah. Jacob’s sons. Naomi and Ruth. They all had to leave “home” and step into unfamiliar, even undesirable, territory if they wanted to live.
Wisdom says that when something repeats, it must be important.
Sometimes the providence of God will dry up in a certain spot. No matter how badly you want there to still be the sustenance and refreshment you’re accustomed to…there just isn’t.
Maybe a good friendship has run its course. Instead of a strong attachment, now there’s only apathy. It may not be terrible, but it just doesn’t give you the fulfillment that it used to.
Maybe you’ve gone as far as you can go in your job or with your company. It was good while it lasted, but the potential for promotion has dried up, or the once-positive environment has turned toxic.
Maybe you realize the person you’ve been dating just isn’t “the one.” They have a lot of good qualities, and you know they’ll make someone a good partner…but deep down, you also know that someone isn’t you.
Maybe your church home just doesn’t feel like home. Sure, you’ve got some friends there, but you’re not being spiritually fed by the teaching. Or the body as a whole just isn’t moving in a divinely-driven, faith-focused direction.
When the well runs dry and the trees go bare, on some level, you know you can’t stay.
And it’s killing you to try! Your health is suffering or your productivity is plummeting. Maybe your attitude is spiraling or your finances are crumbling. You’re losing sleep or over-eating or under-achieving or just flat-out frustrated all the time now. So, you know you need to go…
…but some part of you just doesn’t want to go. At least not yet. After all, things may turn around. It’s probably just a dry spell. Maybe he’ll change. At least it’s a paycheck. She’s just having a rough time. Things could be worse.
When your fear of the unfamiliar outweighs your fear of the famine, you’ll tell yourself anything to justify holding on a little longer. Even if it’s killing you.
I’m encouraged by the people who left to find food. That couldn’t have been easy. Sure, they needed to eat, but they also had to abandon what they had been building. They had to leave the life they were making. That took faith that God would provide, even if it happened in a different place than they wanted it to. They had to trust that God was still the Giver of life, even if it wasn’t the life they thought they were going to have.
When they moved on that faith, they found food and they ate again. They enjoyed the goodness of God once more, maybe in a strange place with uneasy minds, but they ate again.
And what’s so powerful is that they often found more than just the food they were looking for!
Those who had the courage to leave found new relationships and new purpose. They found new blessings and new peace as they learned to rely on the Lord. Some of them learned valuable lessons about themselves and gained a greater understanding of God’s plan for their lives. This is the fruit of the famine, and you only find it if you find the strength to go.
I’ve been wondering about the people who stayed. It seems like whenever there’s a flood or a hurricane, there’s always someone who hunkers down and tries to ride it out. So, I’m sure there had to be some people back then who thought they could hold out when the famine came. Maybe a few made it, but I’m sure there were a lot who lost their lives trying to cling to an identity that was defined by their home, their norms, their familiar territory.
Pray for the wisdom to know when it’s time to leave. And for the courage to actually get up and go. The spirit of fear will tell you to ride it out, but don’t starve yourself holding out for what once was, when God has a new table set for you right around the corner.
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