Returning to the Familiar

Returning to the familiar can be like a warm hug.  Its embrace is comfortable and welcoming and can give you a sense of belonging.

But what if you don’t belong in the familiar?  What if the place you are trying to return to is not the best for you?  What if you are trading the comfort of familiarity for the hard choice to move on to something new?

This time of year, many people seek to add new routines to their lives, new regimens to their health, and pursue fresh ideas about what they want out of life.  At the same time, many resolutions fall through because going after the new is not always the easiest thing to do.  The steps forward can be uncomfortable rather than exciting, and truthfully, it can be downright overwhelming.

In the Bible, God knew what was best for His people, but how often did we see that the children of Israel wanted to go back what was not best, back to the familiar (Numbers 14:4)?  In Egypt, although it was hard, they knew what to expect.  Their routines were predictable, and they knew which course of action would produce which results.

God wanted better for them.  He desired to take them on a life-changing expedition.

But when God wanted them to journey through the wilderness toward their Promised Land, many became apprehensive and disillusioned with the many challenges they faced in order to reach that goal.  And even though Egypt wasn’t good for them and caused them great pain, when times got hard in going toward their place of promise, they wanted to return to the familiar.

With rose-colored glasses on, they talked themselves into believing that the old place where they had come from was not that bad (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:5).  They convinced themselves that things were okay with the way they were and to be content with a life that was less than ideal because the prospect of the new brought too many challenges.

In pursuing change, we too must be careful not to romanticize where we have come from or where we are going.  We must remind ourselves there was a reason for wanting change in the first place.  To continually look back and want to throw oneself into that familiar embrace can sabotage where you are trying to go and what you are trying to do (Proverbs 4:25-27; Luke 9:62). 

At the same time, to look ahead as if everything is going to be peaches and cream, as if moving forward is going to produce automatic results without hurdles to overcome, is setting oneself up for a fairy-tale ending without experiencing the tragedy of the plot in the middle.  It just does not happen that way.

Although this is just the beginning of the year, as it progresses, there will be a few times, if not many, when the pull to the familiar will seek to lure you back (Isaiah 43:18-19).

The familiar, when used correctly, can be an incredibly beautiful thing.  But, if you are after real change this year, and the familiar place is not what was producing it, challenge yourself to stay the course, to keep looking ahead (Philippians 3:12-14).

Prayerfully, seek God’s wisdom and guidance, and as with the children of Israel, He will gladly show you the way (Exodus 13:21; Psalm 25:4-5).    

Yes, this year, the new may have its challenging moments, but when you reach your place of promise, think of the beauty there to behold.

Photo by Abby Chung on

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