As I was reading this week in Acts, I came upon something that struck me in Chapter 13. Paul is in the Synagogue giving a word of encouragement to the people. Here's what the Bible version I was reading reiterated in verses 16- 18
"Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen, The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years HE PUT UP WITH THEM in the wilderness." (emphasis mine)
When I read that phrase, "he put up with them", it poked my heart. Mainly because at times in my relationships I have felt like I was "putting up with" or someone in my life was "putting up with" me. I knew what those words were communicating; frustration, exasperation, disappointment and other adjectives that carry with them a negative connotation.
As my heart tightened at those words I noticed a footnote number so I glanced down to learn more.
The footnote read:
"Some manuscripts he carried (compare to Deuteronomy 1:31)".
As per my usual needing to have all the information mind, I looked up Deuteronomy 1:31 which read:
and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you,
as a man carries his son,
all the way that you went until you came to this place.
This phrase, as a man carries his son, gives an entirely different perspective to what Paul was trying to describe. Think of the picture being painted. Imagine in your mind's eye what it looks like for a man to carry his son. Feel your heart, mind, soul shift as you picture what is happening here?
Paul was reminding the people that day of God's love for them, how he tenderly and gently and lovingly took care of them in the place of their wandering. And the verses prior to v. 31 in Deuteronomy, Moses says,
"The LORD your God who goes before you, will himself fight for you,
just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes"
Not only does God carry us in our times of wandering, He fights for us. Why would I fear to run to him?
For so many years I've believed things about God that just aren't true. While reading this week through Acts, at first glance, without any further digging on my part, I would have been convinced that God just puts up with me when I fail, when I'm struggling, when I sin against him. And if I can't trust God will love me when I see my sin, I won't go to Him. I will distrust God's heart of love and do just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, I'll hide. I'll stay away fearing punishment and retribution.
In Psalm 103 David describes God in this way:
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 103: 8-9
Allow those words to wash over your weary self today. Hear David, the man God describes as "a man after my own heart" speak life into the deepest parts of your heart. God doesn't just "put up with" us. God loves us and is gentle, tender, kind and generous. Believe that truth and it will set you free to not only take all your struggles and the shadowy parts of your heart to God, it will give you courage to make James 5:16 a regular part of how you live in community with your people.
"Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."