Years ago I coached high school girls’ tennis. There was a phrase I often used to encourage my players when they were on the verge of throwing in the towel. “Dig deep!” Many of us know this saying. It is a charge to exert ourselves, to find that inner strength that enables us to give that extra push. I’m sensing that many educators are in need of encouragement these days. Many are being asked to step outside their comfort zones on a daily basis and navigate uncharted territory. Countless numbers of educators are having to “dig deep” just to get through each week!
Digging a well is a literal application of the phrase “dig deep.” This is not something with which most of us are familiar. However, digging wells in Biblical times was necessary for survival. Almost every aspect of daily life in ancient Israel involved water (e.g., agriculture, livestock, cooking, personal hygiene, drinking). Wells yield water, and water sustains life. There are numerous accounts in Scripture that reference wells. I found one particular event quite interesting. On the surface it appears quite frustrating, but as I dug a bit deeper, I was encouraged. I hope you will be, too.
Let me take you back to the life of Isaac. Most remember Isaac as the promised son of Abraham and Sarah. As we read in last week’s blog, God’s promise to bless Abraham was passed on to future generations. As a result, Isaac became quite wealthy. However, he continued to work despite his inheritance, and God continued to bless him. Let’s pick up the story in Genesis 26.
12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. 13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. 14 He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.
Here is Isaac, minding his own business, working hard, and reaping the benefits. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but that didn’t keep hardship at bay. Opposition and jealously came calling. The wells dug by his father Abraham, the wells that belonged to him, were filled with mud by the Philistines, which forced him to leave the country. Sound fair?
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you were doing everything right and suddenly life went awry due to no fault of your own? Maybe a conflict arose with a student, parent, or colleague, and you simply had no idea where it came from. The current pandemic is an example of how everything can be turned upside down even though we did nothing wrong to create the situation. In other words, our “wells” can suddenly became filled with mud by someone or something else! What possible lesson can we learn from these unfair situations?
If we look to Isaac’s experience, we find that opposition was a pathway to promise. God used the opposition to move Isaac back toward the promised land where his father had been.
18 So Isaac moved away to the Gerar Valley, where he set up their tents and settled down.
It is so easy to view opposition as negative. While it often feels uncomfortable and unfair, it very well may be part of God’s plan to move us closer to where He wants us to be. If this is the case, then what should be our response? How do we navigate a season of opposition? There is more to learn from Isaac!
Isaac moved on and began to dig new wells.
19 Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water. 20 But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”). 21 Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”). 22 Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”
It is a little disheartening to see that even when Isaac moved on, he still encountered a struggle. The lesson here is persistence leads to promises fulfilled. What would have happened if Isaac had given up, or worse yet, fought back? Isaac knew God’s promise of blessing. Instead of doubting or taking matters into his own hands, he chose to persist. He knew God was faithful, so he put his head down and dug deep. Sometimes I wonder when things get tough how many of us want God to come through right away without our having to put in any work. It’s as if we want the blessing without faith and obedience. While God can do whatever He wants, it usually doesn’t work that way.
We all can admit times are tough right now. People around us may be unkind and hateful. It may seem like all our hard work goes unappreciated. Our wells keep being filled with mud! However, it is during these times we have to be persistent and dig deep! When those around us are unkind, God is faithful. When circumstances are unfair, God is faithful. You never know when the next act you take or the next well you dig will be the place God has provided for you to prosper.
I want to take a brief step back from our Genesis story to share a personal experience here. To be honest, it is still difficult to talk about this time from my past, so I won’t go into too much detail. Our family experienced opposition years ago. In my humble opinion, it was unfounded and unfair, but the opposition was fierce nonetheless. I spent many hours in tears and on my knees. I claimed God’s promises from Scripture over and over, even saying them out loud. We chose to move on and persisted in our faith, knowing God was in control.
Fast forward many years later. I can honestly say despite the hardship, God opened doors to a much better reality. I learned a great deal during that time. I am quite certain I made many mistakes, but one thing I did right was to trust Him. I never doubted God’s sovereignty, and I am here to tell you that when you persist, His promises will be fulfilled. I imagine Isaac would tell you the same thing.
There is one final lesson we can learn from Isaac, and it may be the most important. At the end of the day, our response should be praise and worship!
25 Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well.
Isaac knew who was in control. Isaac trusted God’s promises.
23 From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, 24 where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.”
This is why the opposition didn’t deter him. This is why he could persist when times were hard. This is why he had no problem acknowledging who God was and what he had done in his life. May we never be too busy to stop and praise God for what He has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.
Are you facing opposition? Is someone or something filling your wells with mud? If so, mediate on the lessons we learned from Isaac’s experience.
· Opposition could be your pathway to God’s promise.
· Persist. If God has called you to it, He will provide a way.
· Praise and worship. God is faithful.
This isn’t a time to give up. As Christian educators, we have an opportunity to experience God in a whole new way. Dig deep!