Avoidance is a trap


Shela Lekha
For the week of June 13, 2015 / 26 Sivan 5775
Torah: Bemidbar/Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24

Facing Challenges

Facing Challenges

And they told him, "We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large." (Bemidbar/Numbers 13:27-28)

I don't know if you have noticed, but the complexities of life are difficult to understand. Everybody has their opinion about everything, even if that opinion is not having an opinion. Contrary to some people, life doesn't just happen. All of creation, not just humans, interact with the things going on around them. If you ever walked through a forest, you can see how trees and other growing things have developed based on their environment. Their health and their shape are a result of their interaction with heat; cold; rain; creatures, including animals and people; and the other growing things around them. While we wouldn't think of plants as intelligent, the forces of life at work within them cause them to change and shift as needed. It's remarkable to see a tree that has twisted and turned in unusual ways as its roots extend themselves to water or its branches reach for open sky in search of the sun.

Humans face greater challenges than plants, but some of us expect that the circumstances of life should always make us feel secure and comfortable. That difficulty and trouble is normal is impossible to deny, but how to deal with such things is another matter. For some, trouble is to be avoided at all costs. Whatever is easiest, the smoothest road, whatever brings the most pleasure in the least amount of time are what determines their course of life. To them, that's what the tree is doing, thinking it is avoidance that allows the tree to thrive in spite of its unfriendly environment.

I don't think that what's going on with the tree, and it's certainly not how we are called to deal with the challenges of life. The life working within the tree strives for survival. Yet many supposedly intelligent human beings face challenges by avoiding them to their own detriment.

Look what happened with the people of Israel when they were on the brink of entering the Promised Land. All twelve scouts agreed that the land was good. They also all agreed that the land's inhabitants presented a considerable challenge. Yet, only two were convinced that the God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt and miraculously cared for them in the wilderness would also ensure their success in conquering the land. The vast majority of the scouts and the rest of the people were overwhelmed by the challenge in spite of sharing the same amazing experiences and preferred to return to Egypt.

Before you think they were crazy for wanting to return to slavery, they simply wanted to do what many of us do when so overwhelmed. Our drive for comfort deceives us into believing that the oppressive past we are familiar with is better than the unknown challenges ahead. We might think that nothing could make us go back to such a horrendous situation, but our great hesitation to face great challenges prevents us from seeing how we keep ourselves in bondage rather than finding freedom in the rich inheritance God has for us.

Your bondage might be to a situation a lot nicer than slavery in Egypt, but you will never know what you are missing until you are willing to face the challenges you are being called to now.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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