I remember reading once of a missionary who, looking out on her chosen land of service, exclaimed to a new arrival, “Isn’t it beautiful? So lush and green?” And the newcomer, who had not yet taken the new place, with all its pros and cons, into his heart, responded, “More like a giant salad bowl, yucky and soggy, turned upside down!”
The longtime missionary stated that at that moment discontent entered her heart. She stopped seeing the beauty around her, and wanted only to leave.
It’s so easy to discourage, isn’t it? Both ourselves and others. All it takes is a little discontent or small criticism.
Or sometimes we discourage others by just stopping.
This almost happened as the Israelites entered the Promised Land, when two of the tribes said to Moses, “We don’t want to cross the Jordan River with you. Just let us stay here, on this side of the river.”
But Moses rebuked the people of Gad and Reuben. “We helped you fight to claim your land. And now you want to send us to fight for ours alone? That’s not fair!”
But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? (Numbers 32:6-7).
In reading the rest of this story, we see that Moses was making a hasty judgement. Those tribes didn’t want to abandon the others to their fate. They were willing to go along and fight, and only wanted to leave their families settled there in their new homes.
Now, Moses did right in wanting to stop any form of discouragement. He saw the great battles and hardship in store for his people. And he knew how easily they discouraged.
And our lives are really not much different, are they?
In following Christ, we’re traveling the wilderness of this world. A wilderness that, it seems to me, is getting a little more desolate day by day. The bumps are getting higher, the pits deeper and more well-hidden. And the path seems so hard to discern.
It’s easy to become discouraged. And so easy to discourage others, even when we don’t mean to do so.
Either by sharing our own discontent, like the salad bowl man. Or by quenching someone’s vision, faith, or enthusiasm. “Don’t get carried away,” we say. “We can’t take the Scriptures too literally, you know. We need common sense too!” And we keep them from growing in faith.
But we’re on a journey, And God calls us to grow in faith and encourage others along the way.
The journey is long. The road is hard. And although we’re all on the same road together, God has a particular path for each of us. I may not understand all your choices. And you may think mine are crazy and far-fetched.
But if you see your place as lush, green, and beautiful, I want to see it that way too…with you and FOR you.
Because when we’re in the place God wants us, everything seems right. Our Eden is green and lush. (Even if it’s in the middle of a desert!) It’s beautiful to us, and all seems right in our world. Our hearts are home, and contented. And I want to see the beauty of your place too…for you.
Or when God gives us a vision, shows us a certain path to walk, it just seems right. Even if it’s against all common sense. Even when it seems impossible. We know it’s good, right, and possible. Because God has placed a certainty in our hearts. So I want to catch your vision, dream your dream, and believe too…for you.
Sure it’s right to offer advice (if asked). It’s good to see another point of view. And to consider carefully. God does want us to use common sense. But it’s also important to remember our task is to encourage one another.
In our experience, when God wants to move us on, he knows fully well how to turn the salad bowl upside down!
Like the mother bird pushing her fledglings out of the nest, he starts to make everything seem an unpleasant, soggy mess! And for us, discerning who is turning the salad bowl over has been an important key to understanding his will.
The sceptics try to keep us from going forward in our walk with Christ. From growing in faith and having more vision.
They come along with their negative attitudes, dumping their own soggy salad bowl on us. They tell us our vision is impossible. Our faith lacks common sense. Our dream is impractical.
But when God turns our salad bowl over, it’s to take us forward. And it always comes with a deep longing for more.
He brings with it a wish to climb higher. To know him more. To love him more. To grow in trust and obedience. A willingness to go on, whatever the cost. And he gives us wings of faith, so that leaving the nest is easy. Not without trials and struggles. Yet somehow easy, and right.
Our job is to go on in Christ and encourage others, leaving him to turn the salad bowls over!
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all, (1 Thessalonians 5:14).