In my work as a speech pathologist, I sometimes work with patients on “if/then” statements. If “this” happens, what will happen next? As in, if I water my flowers, then they will bloom and thrive. If I charge my phone, it will be ready to use when I need it. Or conversely, if I don’t fill my tank with gas, then my car won’t run.
I don’t know about you, but I want life to look like an “if/then” statement. If I do these good things, then my life will look perfect. If I teach my children well, then they will always be respectful, happy, and obey, both me and God. If I choose the “right” spouse, then we will live happily ever after without difficulty. If I eat well and exercise, then I will be healthy and live a long, happy life. And if I’m honest, I can fall into the trap of believing if I love God and serve him, life in general will proceed smoothly. What I don’t expect is if I try my best to live as I believe God desires, life will be a struggle, whether that struggle is as seemingly simple as keeping life together enough to feed and clean up after the people under my roof after the baby cried all night or as devastating as the loss of ones I love or shattering of the life I expected, in whatever form that comes.
Many I know are experiencing life that doesn’t look like an if/then statement. Spouses, friends, and parents have died younger than hoped, hearts have been broken, people have come to grips with their sin and faced the consequences, loved ones have fallen ill, and many have simply wrestled with finding the good in a busy day full of silent struggle they can’t put their finger on. God doesn’t always take us around problems. But He is with us through them.
The Bible is full of examples of the Lord leading His people through hard or uncomfortable times. In Exodus, the Lord led His people out of their enslavement in Egypt. He made a way for them to escape. I imagine the people were elated to be leaving life as slaves and heading toward the land promised their ancestors. However, Exodus 13:17-18a tells us rather than leading them on a direct route to the promised land, the Lord led the people on a path that would require them to trust Him, through the wilderness to an apparently blocked passage at the Red Sea. The Israelites’ immediate reaction to their troublesome circumstance included fear, crying out to the Lord, anger at Moses, and desire to return to their previous life as slaves (Ex 14:10-12).
Moses responded with two of my favorite verses to remember when I am afraid. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’” (Ex 14:13-14 ESV). The people did not need to be anxious, afraid, or try to control their circumstance. God told them to be still and allow Him to save them.
God also told Moses the Lord would “get glory over Pharoah” and the Egyptians would “know I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:17-18). Because the Israelites were in a position to be unable to save themselves, God was certain to get the credit and glory for their salvation. (Exodus 14:30-31)
When life’s circumstances feel insurmountable, I can also find myself afraid and angry, crying out to the Lord to answer my prayers the way I think best, worrying about the path ahead, and longing for aspects of the days behind. I must consciously remember God is working for me and in control, even when I don’t see it or understand. Additionally, regardless of my physical circumstances, He is offering me salvation through Jesus I could not obtain on my own.
Later in their history, the Lord reminded His people of times He had been faithful in the past, including the parting of the waters at the Red Sea, which allowed them to walk through on dry land and be saved from the enemy. He reminded them He was and would be with them in even the most difficult of times. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned; and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isa 43:2-3a)
The Lord did not lead the Israelites on the easy route. But he made a way THROUGH the seemingly impossible to keep them moving toward their destination with greater trust in Him. As a child of God who has made the choice to be one of His people today, I can be confident the Lord is with me and working for me and my eternal salvation. In turn, I can respond to my trials as He desires, in a way that glorifies Him.
God may not take me around hard circumstances, but He will be with me through them. I may not know what is on the other side of what I fear here on Earth, but I know the eternal destination if I follow Him.
And I can be more like Jesus by lifting up others to help them make it through.
What is your favorite verse to remind you God is with you and working for you as you walk through the difficult or seemingly impossible? Leave a comment below so others can be reminded as well!
*I journaled the foundation of this post over a year ago. I wrote the post early February, when many people I knew were going through difficult times and as part of an online Bible study in which I participate. I let the post sit, intending to edit it. In the meantime, a lectureship series in my hometown presented lectures by men from all over the country on the theme, followed by the preacher of my local congregation, John Trigg, preaching not one, but two, amazing sermons on this topic over the past two weeks. I’ve been holding on to the post because it felt like I didn’t need to summarize what others have said more eloquently than I ever could. But I finally decided, maybe everyone is studying the topic because it’s so needed. Hopefully it helps one of you, whether you’ve heard something similar or not.