There's probably no better illustration of the human tendency to doubt God and rely on ourselves to accomplish what we think is best than the story of the Israelites attempting to enter the Promised Land. What was supposed to be a 3 day trip turned into 40 years of wandering in the desert and the death of nearly everyone who escaped from Egypt. This is a story that has been on my heart quite a bit over the past few weeks, and as I read over Numbers 13-14, the Lord showed me a number of powerful things that I want to share with you as you examine not only the situations you encounter in the classroom, but things you are experiencing in your own spiritual walk, as well.
Think about the last time you heard bad news circulating at work- rumors of budget cuts, someone quitting or being fired, changes to your health benefits or pay scale, additional paperwork or responsibilities you'll be assigned, or major overhauls in the way you're expected to teach. What was your response?
The Israelites had heard some seriously discouraging news from the men who had been sent out to spy on the conditions of the Promised Land of Canaan. One of the spies tried to counter the rapidly spreading attitude of fear and discouragement: Numbers 13:30 tell us, "Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. 'Let’s go at once to take the land,' he said. 'We can certainly conquer it!'".
Caleb was willing to believe God even when everyone around him was determined to believe the worst. He had seen the exact same thing the others had: the only difference was his perspective. He made a conscious decision to cling to the promises of God and claim the victory that God had promised. He had the facts (had seen the land himself), had the right attitude (trusted God's promise) and stated clearly what he believed.
"But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. 'We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!' So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: 'The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
The rest of the men perpetuated the spirit of doubt and fear by repeating their negative views to anyone who would listen... and we all know that bad news draws big crowds. They began elaborating on and exaggerating the story- "they'll devour anyone who goes to live there!"- and presenting their own feelings and worries as facts- "we felt like grasshoppers, and that's what they thought, too!".
The negativity of 10 people caused millions of Israelites to perish in the wilderness. The Life Application Bible makes this commentary on the situation: "We must be especially careful when voicing negative opinions because it is human nature to accept opinion as fact and what we say may heavily influence those who depend on us to give sound advice." Passing on misinformation or our own doubts to others who are struggling to make sense of a stressful situation can cause critical errors in judgement and lead to mistakes with severe and lasting consequences.
As Christians, it's critical for us to sort out the facts from the fears and think back to God's faithfulness in the past and His promises to us for the future. It's easy to get caught up in a spiral of gossip and negative perspectives- we have to CHOOSE to see things the way God sees them, and share our postive outlook with others.
Caleb was in the minority, but he wasn't totally alone in his views: there was another spy named Joshua who believed in God's faithfulness despite the challenges that lay ahead. Ask the Lord to show you other people in your school who will support you in your commitment to trust that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. We recently began a prayer group at my school to support and encourage one another when negativity threatens our belief that God is in control of all situations we face, and you may find something like that formally or informally in your own workplace. Regardless of how He chooses to lift you up, you can trust that the Lord will provide you with His vision and perspective if you are open to receiving it, and He will give you the strength you need to follow through on whatever challenges He calls you to overcome.