MOST OF US face discouragement or doubts at some stage in our Christian walk, but it’s not just a personal issue. How we handle these situations can have a major impact on those around us too. Kind of like living in a pandemic.
Look at what happened when the 12 spies went to check out the Promised Land for Moses and 10 of them brought back a “bad report.” It led to a 40-year-long detour in the plan God had created for His people. As I have noted before, given that this advance group was in essence a pack of journalists, the episode is a testimony to the immense power of the press.
Remember, the 10 doubters and the two faithful members of the group—Joshua and Caleb—didn’t disagree on the facts. The land was flowing with milk and honey, they concurred. Oh, and there were sitting tenants who would need to be evicted.
Where they diverted was in the interpretation of the facts. For the 10, these residents were giants who could not be beaten; for the two, they were no problem for God. Unfortunately, the more widely reported version of events won the day, causing the people’s hearts to “melt” (Deut. 1:28) and refuse to take the steps God had for them.
Fast-forward four decades, and as the next generation of Jews finally preps to cross the Jordan into the land promised their predecessors, Moses has a word for them. When they go to war, he says, the officers need to ask, “Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted?” (Deut. 20:8). If so, he goes on, “Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.”
Moses doesn’t criticize them for being wussy, he just knows that he needs to limit their exposure to others: an ancient form of quarantine. Doubt and despair are airborne, kind of like the coronavirus. Maybe in the same way, when we are going through tough times that leave us with questions, we need a close huddle to help us through, but also need to be careful not to unnecessarily put others at risk.
Certainly, leaders have a responsibility to limit the spread of infection. In fact, many of the New Testament letters address this very problem. In Galatians, Paul challenged those who had begun accepting the idea that the believers needed to be circumcised. “This persuasion is not from him who calls you.,” he wrote (Gal. 5:8). “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (v. 9).
None of this is to say we just bottle things up, of course. God isn’t afraid of our questions, nor should we be. We just need to be wise about how we work through them.
What did Caleb and Joshua do when they were sprayed with the doubts of the other 10? Remembering God had given them the land they said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). They put on a faith mask to deal with the doubtavirus.
Photo by Timothy Valentine on Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA