On this Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
From the beginning, God commands His people:
Be fertile and multiply. Gen. 1:28.
Jacob and his family obey this command. He and his twelve sons settle in Goshen (the one in ancient Egypt, not the one near Notre Dame) and they grow into the twelve tribes of Israel. They expand so rapidly that Pharaoh grows afraid, paranoid of the possibility of the “enemy within.”
So, naturally, Pharaoh does what every good despot does: he oppresses the Israelites. Presumably they are good citizens. Their only offense: they are very good at math, particularly multiplication.
God allows this oppression and uses it to His glory.
The Israelites had grown complacent in Egypt. This is not the land God promised to Abraham! It is time for them to move, but who is comfortable with change when they are settled comfortably in routine? Complacency sets in and God needs to motivate them to make the necessary changes.
Change management is an industry buzzword that addresses this natural resistance to change. In physics, we have Newton’s First Law of Motion:
“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”
Or, a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless an external force is applied.
The Israelites were a body at rest. They needed an external force to get them in motion. God used adversity as that external force.
Similarly, I find myself at times growing complacent in my faith. It’s easy to get settled into a routine and let my attitude toward that routine become blasé. If I am not guarded, prayer can become routine. My relationships, also, can start to feel mundane.
As with the Israelites, I think God uses adversity to “light the fires” under my hind-parts. It’s the “external force” that sets my spiritual mass in motion. It might be tension at home that forces me to re-evaluate how well I am fathering my children. It might be unemployment that encourages me to look at my career path and consider alternatives.
Whatever the adversity or hardship, if I can see in it the blessed opportunity to draw nearer to Him, it will be the opportunity for growth. Jesus regularly sought change with the promise of reward. I hope that I, when faced with a challenge to my complacency, will have the courage to be the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that I, too, may produce much fruit.