"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Don't Allow Your Life To End in a Grave of Craving

Dave Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, co-authors of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (and a host of other helpful books), are speaking at a conference at Emmanuel Enid this week.

Sunday morning, Dave mentioned an obscure passage in Numbers 11:1-3 where the Scripture names a place in the Wilderness where the people of God continually complained about the difficulties of their lives and their dissatisfaction in God's provision for them. The people of Israel kept complaining "it could be better." The discontent people died at a place the English Bible translates Taberah.

The Hebrew name for that place is literally קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה (kibroth hattaavah) or in English, "graves of craving."

Hunger is different from craving. Israel wasn't hungry. God fed them with manna every morning. Israel was craving something different. They craved the meats of Egypt rather than the manna (food) God provided every morning.

In the passage immediately following the name of the place where God's people died,  Moses describes their intense cravings for the things they had while they were in Egyptian bondage (Numbers 11:4-35).

A craving is "a strong wanting of what promises enjoyment or pleasure."

Israel's cravings would have taken them back to a place of bondage, destruction, and ultimate death (Egypt), but at least they would "enjoy" the journey.  So they were afflicted, died, and were buried in "graves of craving." 

They never made it to the Promised Land. 

Israel convinced themselves, “It was well with us in Egypt.”

It wasn't. 

But cravings have a way of causing God's people to miss our future purpose, to be confused about our past, and to be blind during the present.

Forgetfulness of  God's goodness and loving purpose is the soil where the plant of craving thrives. 

Next time you feel compelled toward a secret sin that is a compelling addiction that brings you pleasure or joy, ask yourself "Why am I craving this?"

The answer may reside in a lack of comprehension or appreciation for God's miraculous intervention and goodness in your life through the Lord Jesus.

Don't allow your life to end in a grave of craving. 

Calm Balm for the Soul: Healing for Emotional Pain

One of the greatest mistakes we make in life is believing the lie that someone else is in control of my emotions.

Because we wrongly associate the source of our internal pain with the failures of other people, we have a tendency to either control the people around us to be what we need them to be, or we 'shut down' and 'reject' the people in our lives who aren't meeting our expectations because it's too painful for us to even be around them.

That kind of behavior is what psychologists call codependency

Codependency is being so dependent on another person for my source of happiness in life that I do everything I can to fix any problems I see in that person. I work, work, work, to fix the person I need.

When failures occur and I feel pain, I point the finger of blame. "If you would only change, then I..." "If you wouldn't do this, then I..." Controlling and manipulating others to be what I need them to be is a very tiresome job. It often leads to the feelings of frustration and disgust that ends in complete rejection and abandonment of the person I used to believe I couldn't live without.

My problem is a lack of understanding that God never designed my emotions to be controlled by anyone but me.  I hold the remote control.

Healing only begins when I stop blaming other people for my internal pain.   

Let me tell you a story. 

There was once a wealthy young man who was in line to inherit his father's business. However, his brothers, jealous that their father had chosen him for such an honor, sought to him. However, they eventually sold their younger brother as a slave to a caravan of traders on their way to Egypt. This young man named Joseph would eventually spend years in a dark, lonely prison as a result of his brothers' behaviors toward him. If any person had a right to stew in pain over the poor performance of family members, it was Joseph (see Genesis 37:18-36). 

But Joseph harbored no grudges. In fact, Joseph wound up reaching out to his brothers in their time of need (Genesis 45). 

How is that possible? How could a man who had been so wronged, so mistreated, so despised and abused, reach out and warmly meet the needs of the very people who had wronged him? 

Joseph discovered that the source of healing for any pain within his soul was independent of the performance of other people. 

Remember that caravan to whom his brothers sold him as a slave?
"They saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt" (Genesis 37:25). 
The balm from Gilead. 

That's what rode beside Joseph all the way down into Egypt.

The region of Gilead was noted for balm which was an aromatic secretion of the balsam tree. The territory where this salve came from (an area north of the Dead Sea in the land of Israel) was originally given by God to Manasseh as an inheritance when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. It was used by various countries as a fragrant, healing balm for people who'd been cut, wounded, or scarred. 

The prophet Jeremiah was familiar with the balm of Gilead. When God's people refused to realize that the LORD was to be their source of satisfaction in this life, and the Hebrews had turned to idols for their peace, security, and happiness, the LORD said:
 "Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?" (Jeremiah 8:22). 
The Balm of Gilead is a metaphor for the presence of God in one's life.

When J. C. Philpot preached on Jeremiah 8:22 in 1852, he pointed out that God’s grace is always greater than anyone's sin:
“There is more in the balm to heal than there is in the guilt of the wound; for there is more in grace to heal than there is sin to destroy.”
When we mistakenly believe our hurts are greater than His grace, and when we act on the lie that rejecting the person we believe to be the source of our pain is the way to be healed, then we have missed the truth that the Great Physician is the only Person capable of healing any internal pain.  

His grace is sufficient for me.

Resting in His love, His acceptance, His forgiveness, His provision, His promises, His warm embrace, His providence, His guidance, His sufficiency, and His plan for my life is the source of my strength. 

Is there no Balm in Gilead?

Yes, there is.

Jesus makes the wounded whole.

And He's always right beside me in scary journeys that go beyond my control.