Some of life’s transitions are like chapters in a book: they are clearly marked. When one comes to an end, the next follows naturally, such as a move from one community to another, a wedding day, or a retirement ceremony.
Other transitions are harder for us to recognize. They present themselves more subtly, often over a period of time: a relationship grows deeper. Trusts seeps out of a partnership. An opportunity for ministry presents itself.
Over the course of forty years in the wilderness, the children of Israel moved 43 times, all without the help of a book of instructions or MapQuest to point the way. How did they know when Transition Time had come once again?
God’s Guidance Then and Now
God graciously provided the Hebrews with guidance and protection in the form of a cloud, which represented His presence: “You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” (Numbers 13:14). When the cloud moved, so did they.
While the Hebrews had the benefit of a visual guide, today God may not offer that same tangible marker.
But He does not leave us stranded. He has given us the Holy Spirit. A sense of disquiet, dissatisfaction, peace, calm assurance, confirmation, and even a mysterious nudge can all be clues to God’s stirring indicating that change is imminent. The Holy Spirit urges us to tune into God – to look up at the cloud – and to see what direction He is telling us to go.
Too Anxious or Too Comfortable?
But in our rush to alleviate that disquiet or nudge, we may miss God’s signals. Eager beavers want to race ahead of the cloud and do something for God, not with God, often ahead of His schedule. They forget to look for His direction. If you’re too anxious to take action and fail to wait for God’s movement, you may forfeit His presence. You may even get lost in the wilderness.
On the other hand, by ignoring or stuffing God’s cues we miss opportunities to contribute to His great movement. The temptation to stay settled in one place (professionally, personally, or spiritually) can be great, especially when life is going smoothly.
Imagine the cry going up in the Hebrew camp: “The cloud is moving!” calling a million people to pack their belongings. That’s a lot of inconvenience for an entire nation, forcing them to shake up a regular routine and pull up tent stakes once again. It’s easy to get too comfortable … avoid challenge … become entrenched in a life of familiar comfort … even when God shouts for our attention through people, events, or circumstances.
God had more for the Hebrew people than a life of endless wandering. They looked up each day to see if the page was about to turn.
God has more for you, too. Keep your eyes looking upward. When the cloud moves, it’s the beginning of an exciting new chapter. Don’t race ahead. And don’t wait too long that you miss it.