Did you ever sing the children’s chorus “12 Men Went to Spy on Canaan”?
“Twelve men went to spy in Canaan.attributed to Michael Gilkes
Ten 🤚🤚 were bad 👎 and two 👆👆 were good 👍.
What do you think they saw in Canaan?
Ten 🤚🤚 were bad 👎 and two 👆👆 were good 👍.
Some saw giants, tough and tall.
Some saw grapes in clusters fall.
Some saw God was in it all.
Ten 🤚🤚 were bad 👎 and two 👆👆 were good 👍.”
What does a children’s chorus with fun hand motions have to do with chronic illness?
Let’s unpack the story and you’ll see.
In Numbers 13, after God’s miraculous redemption of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses sends twelve men across the Jordan River into Canaan, the land God had promised to give to the Israelites as their home.
Two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, come back with a glowing report. They tell the rest of Israel, “Everything God said is true. This is a land of plenty, we’ll never go hungry again. There are giants and walled cities, but with God’s help we can take them. Let’s go!”
The other ten men, however, had something else to say:
“’We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.'”Numbers 13:31-33
What struck me was the Israelites’ response to this report, recapped for us by Moses 40 years later:
“And you complained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”Deuteronomy 1:27
Wait. “Because the LORD hates us?” These are God’s chosen people talking! The people He made a covenant with, the people He gave His special name to, the people He worked miracle after miracle to create, to protect, to grow, and finally to deliver from slavery and now bring to a home of their own. How could they possibly believe this God hated them?
They let their circumstances determine their view of God.
They looked around, saw the obstacles, the discomfort, the effort, the trial, and said, “A loving God wouldn’t bring us here. This isn’t God’s blessing, this is God’s punishment. Bad things can’t come from a good God.”
We look at our weak, pain-filled bodies and say, “God must really hate me if He’s putting me through this.”
We look at the activities we can’t do anymore and say, “How could a loving God let this happen?”
We look at the calendar empty of events (or full of scratched-out events) and say, “Where is the good in a God that gives His child this kind of life?”
It’s easy to say these things, or at least think them, to feel them in the subconscious part of our heart. As humans, we tend to get distracted by the things we can see–like our circumstances–rather than keeping our focus on the things we can’t see–like God and His attributes and His promises (Col 3:1).
It’s easy, but it’s not right. My sisters, we can’t let our circumstances tell us who God is. If we try to see God through the lens of our difficulties, we’re going to get a warped view of our Heavenly Father. If we look at the Bible, however, to tell us who God is and then bring that truth to our circumstances, we’ll see our difficulties in a completely different light.
To put it into emojis:
👩🏽 🔎 🏔 ⇒ 🌑📖
👩🏽 🔎 📖 ⇒ 💡🏔
If you’ve said these things, if you’re saying these things, open your Bible. Let Scripture–not your circumstances–tell you who God is. Let the Word–not your health–show you your Heavenly Father. Let the Holy Spirit–not your heart–whisper God’s character into your soul.
The pain in my body wants to tell me God isn’t good.
What does the Bible say? “The LORD is good” (Ps 145:9).
Self talk: God is good, no matter how I feel.
Another sleepless night tries to convince me God isn’t with me.
What does the Bible say? “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5).
Self talk: God is with me, no matter what I’m going through.
That rejection from an unsympathetic friend insists that God doesn’t care about my suffering.
What does the Bible say? “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Pet 5:7).
Self talk: God cares about me, no matter what happens.
And so on. Whatever your circumstances are trying to tell you, take it to Scripture. If it doesn’t line up with what God’s Word tells you, don’t listen to it. Repeat His truths until they drown out the lies Satan wants you to believe.
Joshua and Caleb looked at their problem–getting into Canaan–through the lens of God’s promises. They “saw God was in it all.” They had hope, they had courage, and they were ready to step forward and accept God’s victory.
The other ten spies looked at their problems and let those problems distort the truth of who God was. They saw only the “giants, tough and tall.” They had no hope, they were afraid, and they didn’t believe God would provide the victory He’d promised.
As a result of this lack of faith, all Israel claimed that God hated them. They let their circumstances shape the character of God, and they were left with a poorly molded, lumpy, false image of God as useless and inaccurate as the golden calf in Exodus 32. And they never got to experience the victory God had prepared for them.
Do you remember the little carrot symbol (>) from math equations that means “greater than”? It serves as a powerful illustration of the truth of that children’s chorus:
|👍 Two men had the good perspective:||👎 Ten men had the bad perspective:|
|God > circumstances||circumstances > God|
|God is greater than circumstances||circumstances are greater than God|
Now let’s put this equation into our lives:
God > chronic illness
God is greater than chronic illness.
Do you believe it?
Do you find yourself among the good spies with the good perspective or the bad spies with the bad perspective? Are you letting your circumstances tell you who God is, or are you telling your circumstances who God is? What attributes and/or promises of God do you need to keep close to your heart to speak truth to you in your valley moments?