When You Find Yourself Drifting

Have you heard about The World’s Toughest Race?

It was a 671 km race over 11 days in Fiji that involved paddling, sailing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, rappelling, climbing and canyoneering. That’s the equivalent to 16 marathons, but multiplied exponentially in difficulty. When you watch the first episode, everyone is absolutely stoked, excited and revved up to compete. Of the 60 teams from 30 countries, some have been training for months, and others for years.

During the race, the top teams slept only a few hours a day, if even. In fact, one team who dropped out in the middle only slept four hours in four days. Others stopped in the middle because of hypothermia or infections. Some just couldn’t go on because of pure exhaustion, others dropped out because of physical, mental and emotional fatigue. And for most, it all happened in the middle.

What is it about the middle?

Don’t you find that we often quit in the middle? We get scared, and then we quit. We run out of money, and then we quit. We run out of time, we’re not serious enough, we lose interest, we settle for being mediocre, or we just focus on the short term instead of the long term … and then we quit. And doesn’t all of that usually happen when we’re in the middle?

If there’s anyone who knows anything about living in the middle, it’s the Israelites. For 40 years, they lived in between their life of captivity and the Promised Land—that’s 40 years in the middle. As time passed—and as they got used to living in the middle—something interesting happened. They began to drift.

Their longing for the familiar led to a longing to quit because they began forgetting all the ways that God had miraculously rescued them from their former life of slavery. And eventually, their gratitude drifted into mumbling, their thanksgiving drifted into grumbling, and their hope drifted into despair. In other words, when the Israelites were living in the middle, they forgot the past, began turning inward, and eventually drifted off course.

Has this ever happened to you?

As the Israelites slowly started forgetting their past and taking their eyes off of God, their God worship was replaced with idol worship. And even though they boldly declared that they would never have any other god beside the one true God (Exod. 24:3), they still bowed down to an idol—all because they drifted.

As we see all throughout the Scriptures, and in fact, all throughout the news as well, our natural tendency is to drift because our hearts are full of idols. With the Israelites, I know that Aaron made a golden calf (Exod. 32:1–6)—which is kind of why Moses flipped out—but that was simply a physical expression of what the people had already fashioned in their hearts and were already bowing down to. Even before they asked Aaron to make an idol for them, the Israelites had already started living for and worshiping the idol of comfort, the idol of comparison, and the golden calf of me, myself and I.

When they were in the middle of leaving behind a life of slavery and moving toward a life of freedom, their hearts wandered and they drifted. They forgot what God had done and how he had miraculously rescued them through signs and wonders. And as a result, they began turning inward, and they eventually drifted off course.

Do you find yourself in the middle of something right now? In transition? Or living in between?

If so, then beware because you will most likely end up drifting when you’re in the middle—just like the current that will take you down a river, or the tide that will take you back to shore, or push you further out. When we’re in the middle, our natural tendency is to drift, unless we are proactive and intentional to paddle the other way. And these days, while you might not necessarily create and bow down to a golden calf while you’re in the middle, your heart will often drift to an idol that you’ve previously secured yourself to, or bowed down to in the past.

What is that for you?

Is it work? When you are in the middle, do you have a tendency to just bury yourself in work to distract yourself? Or is it perhaps leisure and trying to have fun and fill yourself with experiences? Or maybe it’s alcohol or drugs to help you relax and forget? Or perhaps it’s pornography because it makes you feel like you’re in control?

Instead of letting yourself fall into a tried, tested and true tactic of the Evil One, I urge you to do what some of the Israelites did once they recognized that they drifted—repent. Lay down your pride, confess your mistakes, and come humbly before Jesus because he cares for you.

If you’ve drifted and find yourself bowing down to an idol from your past, my prayer is that you would be overwhelmed by the unchanging compassion and grace of Jesus. And that the guilt or shame that you are experiencing would be replaced with the abounding faithful love and truth of Jesus as he washes over and forgives your iniquity, rebellion and sin. Because here’s the truth: There’s nothing you can ever do to make Jesus love you less, and there’s nothing you can ever do to make Jesus love you more. His love is ever constant, ever present and forever unchanging—even when we drift off course.

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This article originally appeared on Thinke.org and is reposted here by permission.

Daniel Im
Daniel Im

Daniel Im is the lead pastor of Beulah Alliance Church in Edmonton, Alberta. He is the author of You Are What You Do, No Silver Bullets and Planting Missional Churches. He also co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast and a podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast.