Adversity as a Test

 Chewing on these verses from Hebrews 3 today:

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.”

I’m drawn to the phrase “the time of testing in the wilderness.” When was that time of testing he’s referring to, anyway?

The first time the word appears in Exodus is shortly after the people escaped Egypt into the wilderness:

“When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test."”
[Exodus 15:23-25]

The people needed something, and what they found on their own was not suitable to meet their need, so rather than ask God (or his designated leader at the time), they complained.

God calls it a test. It was a pattern they continued all the way from Egypt to the promised land: they had a need, so they whined, but God came through.

It occurs to me that the whiney people, freshly delivered from slavery, didn’t recognize the tests. I understand why they didn’t recognize the first one: they’d never been tested by God before.

But it happened over and over and over. Every time they had a need, they could have looked to God who had already met every single need they had for escaping slavery and surviving in the wilderness, but they focused their attention on their needs instead. And they whined.

Hebrews interprets this whining as them hardening their hearts. They had the choice in the test: do we trust God, or do we harden our hearts and whine?

I admire God’s patience as the whiny people tested his patience. (Yes, Scripture is clear: they tested him, too.)

Then I realized that when I am faced with a need, that’s probably a test, too.

If God is my provider, he’s going to provide for my needs.

(Note that not every want qualifies as a need. God has not promised to provide for everything I want, just for my needs. I may need to discern the difference.)

So every time I encounter a need in my life, I’m faced with the same choice: do I use this as an opportunity to bring my need to my Father, which keeps my heart soft toward him?

Or do I look at my need, focus on my need, whine about my need, and harden my heart toward my Father who loves me, and who is using this as an opportunity for softening my heart?

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