Unexpected Challenges of the Promised Land

Our daughter often falls asleep on the drive home from Mass. Sadly, she is not the kind of toddler who can be transferred from car to bed once she has fallen asleep. Wanting her to get her nap for our own sanity’s sake, my husband and I often find ourselves sitting in the driveway after Mass for an hour or so, waiting for the toddler to wake up.

This particular Sunday, we were whispering our frustrations and struggles, wrestling with that timeless cliche, “Why is this so hard?”

Six months prior, we had packed up our cramped apartment, loaded up the kid and the dogs, and moved to a brand new city in a brand new state for two amazing jobs.

The move was a very clear answer to prayer after years of struggling in a small town “desert” with no family and few friends. Confident in our discernment, we were grateful and joyous to enter a new “Promised Land” era for our family. Half a year had passed since then, and we still found ourselves scrimping and scraping to fulfill all of our professional and personal responsibilities.

We could not help but reflect on the Biblical description of the Promised Land as a place “flowing with milk and honey.” At first we thought this area of our life should have a little more sweetness—and maybe even more passive receptivity in accepting God’s gifts—than what we were currently experiencing.

Then, my background as a High School Scripture teacher came in handy, flickering on a light in our dark confusion.

Reliance on God is Always Necessary

The book of Joshua tells the story of the Israelites’ long-awaited entrance to the Promised Land. After hundreds of years of slavery, and almost half a century in the desert as penance for their lack of faith, the Israelites finally encounter paradise.

A novice Scripture reader might be tempted to expect this story to play out the same way my husband and I were unconsciously viewing our own situation: as a bit of a handout, a gift dulled out as a retribution for all the years of hardship before.

But that is not what happens in the story.

God led the Israelites to the Promised Land, and then they are faced with the task of conquering it.

This land is “flowing with milk and honey.” Its location is great for trade, and different regions all have their own source of natural wealth. It is such a valuable location in the eyes of man that multiple nations are already well established within its borders. Cities are well built and fortified. Armies and powerful kings stand at the helm of every region.

Despite all this, God tells the Israelites, “this land I give you,” and tasks them with an undertaking that is only possible if they continue to rely on God.

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God Works Miracles

Spearheading this conquest, Joshua leads the Israelites into situations of immense danger and guaranteed failure. They face giants, cities with multiple walls, armies that outnumber them immensely. Yet the Israelites win these impossible victories. It’s no cakewalk; the Israelites have to deal with all the difficult conditions a human could face, including ridicule and exhaustion.

But they continue to rely on the promise of God. They get up, fight in faith, and win for themselves a new homeland.

Here, Too

Just as I finished sharing all this with my husband, the little one in the back seat rejoined the conscious. My husband and I resolved to read the book of Joshua together to help inspire us to better face our daily difficulties.

A few days later, I received a copy of the Blessed is She Lent Journal, Here, Too and had to smile at the goodness of the Holy Spirit.

This year, our community as a whole will be reflecting on all the different places we encounter God. Drawing on physical places in Scripture and linking them with beautiful spiritual metaphors, the writers gently sway the soul with their words, connect the Word of God with experiences that hit close to home. They share reflections of time spent in the desert, at home, on the road, in the storm, on the mountain, in the garden, and at the tomb. We are invited to reflect deeply on the ways in which God encounters His children in these places. No matter where you are in life (spiritually or physically), God wants to encounter, strengthen, and love you right there. Just like He did with the Israelites.

The question all of us must answer for ourselves is: are we ready?

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Grace Bellon is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She’s a lover of bearded men, rich coffee, cheesy puns, cuddly doggies, and Catholicism. You can find out more about her here (warned ya she liked cheesy puns).

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