“Blessed are those whose strength is in [God], who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).
This verse has been running through my mind a lot lately, and the theme of pilgrimage keeps coming up in my life. I recently said goodbye to friends who are moving far away. For quite some time, their hearts have been set on making this move, and doing everything necessary to prepare for it. As they planned to move geographically, God also moved them spiritually, teaching them more about themselves and about His great love for them. The purpose of their move is to share the love of God with others. My heart rejoices with them. This is not the end of their pilgrimage, but one step along the way. Each moment of our lives is one more step on our journey to know Jesus better and to trust Him more. And, although I have no imminent travel plans, I realize that my heart is also to be set on pilgrimage. I wonder how best to prepare for this journey.
If my strength is in God, then the first thing I must pack is humility. Instead of pushing for my own desires and plans, I must trust the Master Travel Agent to set the agenda. God has been revealing to me that humility says, “Not my will but Thine be done.” Humility says, “Let it be to me as You have said.” Humility says, “Even if I never see the fulfillment of my life’s dreams, I will trust You.” Humility says, “I won’t spend my time worrying, because I know You are in control.”
Replacing my big plans with humility has made some extra room in my luggage. I want to fill that space with joyfulness, praise, and the right perspective. Recently as I was reading in Exodus about the Lord delivering His people from their enemies, I realized that I am not so unlike those pilgrims. The lessons they learned still speak to me today. It is so easy for me to start to look at the negative when things aren’t going as I planned. Although the Israelites had seen God work miracles in rescuing them, the minute something went wrong, they complained and asked, “Is God even with us?” In the end it was their grumbling and complaining that kept them from the promised land. This is a good reminder to me that I am to have a spirit of thanksgiving and praise at all times. In the hard times, I need to look back on all the miracles He has done for me and all the blessings He has given to me—and praise in spite of the pain!
Recently, a girlfriend told me that during this time of the year she has an abundance of free time. As she recounted the things she does to fill her time, for a moment I thought “That must be nice—to have all that time to do whatever you want to do.” Almost immediately, I felt the Lord saying to me, “You are doing what you want to do.” And I realized that is true. God has granted so many of my heart’s desires. I love being a wife and mother, teaching my children at home and serving with WEC International. I went from knowing mostly only people in central PA four years ago to having friends all over the world today. My family and I have the privilege of impacting the world by serving here and by praying for so many people and places and ministries. I have the joy of writing and sharing about some of the amazing work the Lord is doing around the world. Comparison robs me of contentment. Why would I be jealous of someone else’s free time when I am doing just what I want to do? Perspective is everything! It breaks my heart to think of how many times I have forgotten all the miracles God worked just to bring us here, and I have concentrated on the challenges instead.
I love this tidbit of advice from a dear friend, “Look for the positive in it.” Or, as Paul put it in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I have found that my attitude about any situation can change dramatically if I take the time to ask myself, “What is true in this?” “What is right?” “What is praiseworthy?” Then I can take the time to thank Him for those things, and for His promise to use everything for my good and His glory. My hubby and I sometimes joke with each other, when we aren’t seeing things eye to eye, that we can rejoice because God is using us as refining fire in each other’s lives. In the hard times, let us fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). If He could endure the cross for the joy of saving us, surely we can endure whatever He allows in our lives for the joy of glorifying Him—and of helping others to know Him all over the world.
Thankfully, I have room left for packing wisdom, an essential for any pilgrimage. In Exodus 18, Jethro had to remind his son-in-law, Moses, to have wisdom on his journey. Jethro advised Moses, “You can’t do all of this alone! You are going to wear yourself out. Find some people you can trust and delegate some of the work to them.” This reminds me to seek the Lord as to what He is asking me to do and how much I am taking on myself outside of His will. A good friend from home recently told me that she was convicted that she should stop volunteering for everything. She felt the Lord was telling her that she was not only taking on too much, but that she was robbing others of the joy of serving in some of the jobs she was doing. Am I taking on too much? God has been teaching me to daily commit my journey to Him and ask Him to order each day, taking me where He wants me to go and keeping me from doing what He isn’t asking me to do. He’s also teaching me to go to bed each night without worrying about what did not get done.
Jethro also mentioned two qualities that leaders should have. They should fear God and hate bribes. Great advice! Imagine what our world would be like today if we chose all the leaders based on those qualities! Each one of us has some area of leadership. It may be at work or in our homes or at our church. Perhaps you don’t even know that others are looking up to you and learning from you. Are we fearing God alone, not caring what others think of us? Are we willing to stand for what is right even when it makes us unpopular? Do we hate bribes? You probably wouldn’t dream of taking a monetary bribe. Yet we may be tempted by other less obvious bribes. Are there areas of our life where we still do what we want for the reward it brings us? Are we serving our own pride—or a fear of man’s opinion—or anything else that is outside of His will? Do we ever do things to please people rather than God? Sometimes being liked seems a whole lot more fun than being holy. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for each of us to open our hearts before the Lord and ask Him to reveal to us how we are doing as godly leaders.
Pilgrimage can seem quite daunting. Some legs of the journey are so very hard. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we watch those we love struggle with all kinds of problems, we have physical pain that makes the idea of journeying anywhere daunting. We may work very hard and not see much return for our work, or feel that we are not appreciated in the roles the Lord has given to us. I think that having humility, the right perspective, and a spirit of praise will make the journey so much lighter. I am glad we can take this journey together. And I am thankful for the words of others who encourage me along the way, like these precious thoughts from Beth Moore: “[God will] help the tired traveler take one more step. . . . If God had already taken us everywhere He intended, we’d be at His glorious feet by now. That you and I are still here drawing terrestrial breaths tells us that God still has appointments for us. . . . This is all about pilgrimage. We’re on our way somewhere. . . If we can [only] change our perspectives, if we can get it through our heads that what we’re going through we are not staying in. This is not where we’re staying. I AM NOT STUCK. YOU ARE NOT STUCK. Your circumstances will feel a whole lot better when you realize you are just passing through. This is a flash of time in eternity.”
Thanks for spending this flash of time with me. Let us set our hearts on pilgrimage—and encourage each other every step of the way.