“God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.” Colossians 1:11 (NCV)
Certain. Comfortable. Predictable.
These are all words I long to use to describe my life.
I suspect you’d be OK with these being the defining terms of your life, as well.
But what if the comfort and certainties we crave today are a deadly recipe for complacency that will draw our hearts further away from God?
There are many examples of this in the Bible, but let’s look at one tucked into Jeremiah: “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another—she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged” (Jeremiah 48:11, NIV).
On the surface, it may seem like the nation of Moab has it good.
They are comfortable. Life seems predictable.
They’ve been at rest for a long time.
They haven’t known what it’s like to get caught off guard. To suffer. To endure hardships due to circumstances beyond their control. Life feels good, so it must be good. No disappointments. No difficulties.
But this verse is very clear that this is not what’s best for them.
People left in a complacent place for too long become tainted like impure wine.
“Wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another” (v.11) means it’s been sitting in comfort for so long that it has absorbed the aroma of complacency. Winemakers during Jeremiah’s time would pour wine from jar to jar for two reasons. First, so the wine wouldn’t absorb the flavor of the vessel. And second, to rid the wine of the dregs or sediment that would settle into the bottom and prevent the wine from being pure.
The Moabites were not jarred from their complacency. Therefore, their culture was saturated with satisfaction apart from the Lord, and their people were full of impurities. They had no need to draw upon the Lord’s strength, so their hearts were far from Him.
The Moabites were lulled into a false sense of security. Without challenges and changes, people tend to grow increasingly distant from God and resistant to His ways.
In the meantime, the Moabites’ neighbors, the Israelites, were forced to depend on God and learn to survive suffering, captivity, enslavement. The Israelites appear to be the ones not being “saved” from hardship by God. But if we look through the lens of what’s best in the long term, Israel was being strengthened by God for her eventual good.
Settling into complacency might seem to be comfortable for today, but in the long run, we, like the Moabites, may suffer more if we go untouched by God for too long.
Make no mistake: Being lulled into a false sense of security is worse than going through the process of suffering.
Scripture reveals that the eventual fate of the Moabites was one of complete ruin. (Isaiah 16:6-10) It would have been better for them to go through the Israelites’ experience. To go from vessel to vessel and experience suffering in doses that made them strong enough to handle suffering in even larger doses.
In a practical way, it’s like getting a colonoscopy or mammogram (neither of which are comfortable at the time) just to make sure you catch something wrong early, while treatment is possible.
We must sip the suffering of today so we don’t have to drown in the devastations of tomorrow.
To be poured into new vessels might seem uncomfortable, chaotic and completely unfair while we are suffering in the moment, but God wants us to know we can trust Him in the midst of it.
He’s helping us get rid of the dregs — weakness, fear, complacency and the hopeless resignation that all of life is unfair. He’s on guard, looking to strengthen us for what He sees coming. And He is fulfilling the promise of Colossians 1:11, which says, “God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.”
It’s a process that doesn’t usually feel good at the time, but God assures us it will be good in time.
Father God, thank You for reminding me that You are more interested in preparing me than keeping me comfortable. I confess no part of me likes suffering, but I know I can trust Your heart for me. Keep shaping and strengthening me. I know the work You’re doing in me is good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)
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