We Do it for a Reason

We Do it for a Reason

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:2-4

In working with the incarcerated, I often ask what’s going to be different upon their release. They’ve relapsed multiple times, ending up in jail repeatedly, yet they have this confidence that things will be different this time. So, I ask what’s going to be different. I don’t want to use drugs anymore. I’m done. I ask what they’re going to do to change their lives and they have no answer. They’re going to go back to the same old life, hoping that this feeling of not wanting to use drugs will keep them sober. It’s a fool’s hope. When they go back to the old life, they’ll go back to the same old stressors. They’ll get hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, and they’ll return to the old comforts, doing what they know to find relief and release.

Whatever our thing is – drugs, shopping, food, pornography, or screen time – we do it for a reason. We all have our pacifiers to which we turn when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Whether it’s healthy or not, we use that thing to find relief. When things are going well, we’ll tell ourselves we’re over the behavior. I don’t even want it anymore. Under pressure though, we’ll remember and, if we’ve not cut that thing out of our lives, we’ll return to it.

The Israelites found themselves in this position in today’s passage. God had just saved them from the Egyptian army, and in response they sang praises to God, promising obedience. Just a few short verses later though, they got hungry and changed their minds, wishing they were back in Egypt. At least we had food back there. When stressed, they abandoned their faith, reverted to old behaviors, and longed for the old life of slavery.

It’s absurd when we read about the Israelites doing it, but we do the same. We know that we’re supposed to find our life, joy, and peace in God. But when hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, we return to the old comforts. This is why we must decide ahead of time exactly how we’re going to deal with life’s stressors. Daily, we must do what it takes to abandon the old behaviors and we must have a plan to replace them. Daily, when stressed, we must go to God, asking what he wants us to do. This takes far more effort than taking the drink or eating the donut, but in the end, this is the only path to authentic life, joy, and peace.

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