Recently I had a conversation with a friend whose life, as far as I was concerned, seemed to be better than mine in every aspect. She and her husband were doing well financially, they loved their cool, trendy hometown (sorry, Sparkle City), they had plenty of close friends and family nearby, and they were both skinnier than they used to be. When I have conversations like that, I am speaking warm words of encouragement and celebration (“you lost another 10 pounds! without even trying! how fantastic!”) on the outside, but on the inside, I am talking to God and to myself, back and forth.
To God I say, “Help me to be genuinely happy for her. Please rid me of selfish ambition and vain conceit.” To me I say, “Stop it! Stop it! Act like a Christian, for crying out loud.” After a little bit of this internal tug of war, the Holy Spirit prompted me to completely forget about myself. To not even think of my life, and to only be concerned about hers. And by His grace, I was. Then she asked me how I was doing, and I had to think about myself. I tried to be honest (anxious! doubting! eating too much!), but to include all of God’s gracious provisions to me. Because He is good, He is so good, and like the ancient Israelites, I forget his goodness and focus on my never-ending, never-satisfied wants.
In Numbers 14, the Israelites say, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” This after the plagues, after manna, after the parting of the Red Sea, after quail, after their feet did not get tired and their clothes did not wear out. The Lord is indeed slow to anger and abounding in mercy.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.” – Numbers 15:41