There are times in life when we're just running in circles. Something about our circumstances keeps us from stepping into the starting blocks and beginning what we know is the next step in our life process. There's plenty of uncertainty and indecision about the path forward. But, even when the way is clear there's also some degree of doubt and fear that makes the circular motion seem preferable. Like the people of Israel after their miraculous departure from 430 years of Egyptian captivity, we'd just as soon keep circling the familiar confines of that mountain rather than move away from the relative security of that known ground.
The text of Deuteronomy 1 is clear regarding the the doubt and fear that kept the nation of Israel circling the mountain country of Kadesh-barnea, specifically at Mt. Seir (see Deut. 2:1). With great precision the text reveals---
1. The nation rebelled against God (Deut. 1:26)
2. They murmured that God was going to punish them (Deut. 1:17)
3. They were afraid because their spies had reported the superiority of the
fortifications and inhabitants of the land, including giants (Deut. 1:28)
4. They doubted God's promise to fight for them (Deut. 1:29-32)
5. Their doubt called God's faithfulness into question (Deut.1:33)
Doubt and fear had become the controlling interests in their movement to the land God had promised them. That's when God told them to stop running in circles and go north according to the promise he had given them.
You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn
northward and command the people...
Deuteronomy 2:2, ESV
Evidently these same kinds of doubts and fears had isolated them when they were at Mt. Horeb too, after having received the law from God. In that instance the historian had written a similar summary---
You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and make your journey...
Deuteronomy 1:6, ESV
Uncertainty can affect our decisiveness and leave us running in circles too. What is more, much of that uncertainty originates in our doubts and fears as well. Just think of the many promises that are ours in Christ and are affirmed in the New Testament---
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3, ESV
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:10, ESV
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7, ESV
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV
Among many others. And, the occasions when Jesus warned his disciples about the debilitating effects of fear on their mission.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Matthew 10:28, ESV
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:32, ESV
We humans are prone to doubt. These doubts may be the most prevalent mind games any of us encounter in living the victorious life he promised. Sure, we're supposed to be personally aware of our own limitations, the frailty of having this treasure in what the Apostle Paul thought to be "jars of clay". These human limits, however, are to "show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us" (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV). They are to remove our doubts and fears by focusing us on God's provision.
James explained the indecision of doubting God. He wrote---
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously
and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith
without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven
and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive
anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:5-8, ESV
And, that's the deal about running in circles. We never get to the starting point because doubts and fears have become lords. Then, all we know is the circular motion of doubts and fears.
The question of the hour may be the one Jesus asked his disciples after the resurrection. He asked, "Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" ( Luke 24:38). This answer may explain why so many of us are running in circles.