Think back on your last vacation. There is nothing quite like packing up the family and heading to the beach (or wherever your family likes to vacation). There is something special about setting apart a week or weekend to simply relax and spend time together. However, before you leave, there is the dreaded packing of the car.
I can still remember as a teenager taking a summer vacation with my family in which we packed a family of four and all our luggage for ten days into a Ford Taurus. As you can imagine, this took a good bit of planning and strategic packing.
As a father now myself, I remember this Christmas my wife and I decided to pack up our then four-month-old to go see my family. Before we could leave, we had to pack the necessary supplies for ourselves: clothes, toiletries, winter coats and boots, etc. Then, we had to pack everything for the kid: clothes, diapers, formula, wipes, toys, pack 'n play. etc. Being that it was Christmas, we also had a whole collection of presents to throw in. Now, I had to be intentional about how I packed everything. I had to make sure not to bury the diaper bag or smash the presents. I had to make sure that snacks, baby toys, and other necessities were within arms reach. I had to make sure we were still able to access certain bags if need be. In all, there was a lot of preparation that went into that four-hour drive.
How many of you can relate? There is always a list of things that we have to get done, a list of physical preparations we have to do before we can leave. This is nothing new. In fact, the Israelites experienced this in the book of Ezra. There are preparing to make the long journey from exile in Babylon back to the Promised Land of Israel. However, there is something different in how they are preparing to leave.
Ezra 8:21-23 (NLT)
And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.
Ezra and the exiles were embarking on a 900-mile trip that would take them about 4 months on foot. This journey would take them through some rough and dangerous terrain. However, instead of relying on the king for protection, instead of making physical preparations, they turned to God and made spiritual preparations. They decided to humble themselves in prayer and fasting. They decided to trust God for provision and protection, and the Lord heard their prayer.
Therefore, I challenge you to do the same. While few, if any, of us are taking trips right now, the principle still remains. Instead of metaphorically packing the car to the brim with suitcases and snack foods, instead of worrying about all the endless physical preparations, let's turn our focus to spiritual preparations. Let us humble ourselves in prayer and fasting. Let's start trusting God to protect and provide for us.
At the end of the day, even the most prepared of us will run into trouble. There will always be a hidden pothole or unexpected breakdown along the way. So tomorrow, before you head off on whatever task or journey the day may hold, before you start your physical preparations, drop to your knees and pray. Humble yourself before God and trust Him for all you need. As Ezra 8:23 says, "So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer." The same Lord who brought the Israelites safely through 900 miles of dangerous terrain will see you through. It's time to start making some spiritual preparations.