The human mind is an amazing and dangerous thing. It can conceptualize astonishing art and solve seemingly impossible problems. It can imagine whole new worlds. It can invent and it can innovate, coming up with completely new things or just finding brilliant ways to improve on what’s already there. The human mind can conceive and create.
But it can also deceive and destroy.
One of the worst tricks our minds play on us is glossing over how bad things used to be. When we finally come out of a difficult situation… when we get some distance between ourselves and the pain we were going through… when time starts to heal some of the wounds that life had inflicted on us, we tend to lose touch with how terrible it really was. When we finally come into the light, we quickly repress how terrified we felt in the darkness.
And when we forget how bad it actually was, we start thinking about going back.
Over time, we tend to minimize the bad parts of an awful situation, and we even start to magnify the “good” things about it! The Israelites experienced this trick of the mind once they were delivered from Egypt (Numbers 11:5-6). After they had been in the wilderness a while, they began to romanticize the past. They grumbled, “All we’ve got to eat is manna! We’re dying of hunger out here. We used to have it so good back in the day. When we were in Egypt, we had fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic!”
Okay, maybe…buuuuuut, aren’t we forgetting something? Like, oh I don’t know, the fact that WE WERE SLAVES?!? That we had no freedom or self-determination? That we were under Pharaoh’s whip and subject to his every whim? That we had to do back-breaking labor and endure soul-crushing indignities? That it was so bad that we were crying out to God to remember us and deliver us?
But we had cucumbers though. Come on.
When you don’t stay focused forward, you start to look back on your hard times through the rose-colored lens of nostalgia.
No, he didn’t always treat me right, but he did have some good qualities about him.
Yeah, there was a lot of drama with her, but we had some fun times, too.
Sure, I had some problems when I was drinking, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t manage.
Yeah, I may have gotten myself in a hole, but I was always able to climb back out.
It was bad…but it really wasn’t THAT bad!
When the joy of your new-found freedom dries up under the heat of the sun, your eyes can very easily turn back to things that you think will bring you satisfaction and relief from what you’re feeling now.
Don’t let the discomfort of your desert make you run right back into bondage.
Yes, it WAS that bad! You were crying yourself to sleep almost every night. You were always broke. You could hardly look in the mirror for the guilt you were feeling. Your body was breaking down and your mind was in pieces. You were in the hospital every other week. You were begging, borrowing, and even stealing from your own family to get your fix. You were depressed and despondent. You were digging an ever-deepening pit of lies to cover your shame. You had pushed away everyone who cared about you. You were thinking about ending it all. Don’t forget how it really was.
However hard your wilderness becomes, it’s still better than being Pharaoh’s slave.
Don’t get discouraged when God is moving you from your past to your future. It may be taking longer than you thought it would, and it may be tougher than you had anticipated. But remember that deliverance is a process, not an event. Liberation is great, but just because the body’s been set free doesn’t mean there aren’t still chains on the mind. So your wilderness is a pruning process. It’s a time of testing and a time of trusting. It’s a God-ordained season of correcting and perfecting you for what’s to come.
Maybe your wilderness is a season of loneliness you’ve got to go through after escaping an abusive relationship.
Maybe your wilderness is the withdrawal pain you feel after finally being delivered from your addiction.
Maybe your wilderness is a time of tightening the belt after leaving a lucrative, but life-draining job.
Maybe your wilderness is the isolation you’re enduring because you’ve finally decided to follow hard after Jesus, and that means forfeiting some old friendships and breaking some long-standing bonds.
Whatever your wilderness may be, this is still better than that. For one thing, even though you’re in the middle of “no man’s land,” God is with you now in a way that He wasn’t while you were in Pharaoh’s grasp. Yes, they were in the desert, but Israel got to experience the Lord’s incredible presence in the cloud and the fire, leading them by day and night!
For another thing, He’s sustaining you with the bread of heaven, miraculous manna to keep you going. It may not be everything your flesh desires, but it’s everything your soul requires! His grace is still sufficient.
Don’t give up on God. Don’t give in to the frustration or the fear. Don’t be seduced by the warped memory of the “pleasure” that your past life provided. And don’t let the temporary growing pains of your new life make you miss out on the glory of God’s promises.
Your worst day in the desert is still better than your best day in Egypt. Don’t go back.