I hope that this Update finds you doing well, wherever you are. I know that several of our FCCers are experiencing some complicated issues in their lives right now (two people struggling with eye problems, one with serious kidney stone issues, another with post-surgical rehabilitation, etc.), so if you’re having a hard week, you’re in good company.
Nonetheless, I’d like to affirm all of those people I listed above for the hearts with which they’ve approached their times of struggle. Yes, it’s been hard -- and yes, there have to have been days when they felt the need to express all of the pain and frustration that they’ve been going through -- but they’ve also been actively trying to give their situations over to the Lord, and even to use their circumstances as opportunities to show God’s love to those around them, even in the midst of difficulty.
Never confuse your circumstances with reality -- your circumstances are temporary, but the things that are really real (like God’s faithfulness and your place in His plans) are eternal.
We talked about that a little bit in our message this week, as we continued our walk through the life and ministry of Moses. See, when we finally get to the story of the parting of the Red Sea, it’s tempting to -- just like the Israelites -- get caught up in the circumstances and the spectacular, instead of remembering the reality and the point.
With the first nine plagues, the narrative emphasis wasn’t really on the plagues as much as on Pharaoh and his hardness against God. Even with the tenth plague, the narrative emphasis wasn’t really on the plague as much as on God’s call for us to soften our hearts and remember -- always, actively remember -- what God has done for us and in us. In the same way, the story of the parting of the Red Sea isn’t the great, narrative climax that all of us tend to think of it as.
If you’ll remember, God made it clear (even from the burning bush) that the reason why He was rescuing His people from bondage in Egypt was so that they could worship Him. That was the repetitive message that Moses and Aaron shared with Pharaoh, to the point where even Pharaoh and his advisors recognized that as the core rationale for God’s demand that His people be released. God wanted to make Himself known to His people, and to be in relationship with them.
So He promised that He would bring them back to Canaan again. He promised that they would not have to take part in combat. He promised that He would do the fighting for them. And He led the people -- with a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud -- to exactly where He’d wanted them to be.
But when the people saw the Egyptians on one side and the Red Sea on the other, they became immediately frightened, and they complained to Moses that he should’ve just left them in Egypt, where they’d been happy.
First things first -- they hadn’t been happy, and they’d been calling on the Lord to save them.
But more importantly, God didn’t save them to make them happy. He saved them to make them worshipful, to make them trust Him. But at the first opportunity for them to stretch those “trust muscles” as an act of worship, they crumpled. Remember, He’d promised that He would bring them back to Canaan again. He’d promised that they would not have to take part in combat. He’d promised that He would do the fighting for them. And He’d led the people to exactly where He’d wanted them to be. So which of those promises did they find God to be untrustworthy in, just because their circumstances suddenly looked so bleak?
Never confuse your circumstances with reality.
When God parted the Red Sea, it wasn’t to impress the Israelites or to impress us. It wasn’t the climax of the story. Instead, it was simply God doing what He’d been telling them all along that He would do. Thus, the parting of the Red Sea was almost anti-climactic, in that it wasn’t the horrifyingly huge slaughter that the Israelites had been emotionally preparing themselves for.
So where are you at right now? Are you thanking God for changing your circumstances and leaving it at that, as if God changes circumstances primarily to make us more comfortable? Or are you still facing some seriously hard circumstances in life, and wondering if God really will be faithful to walk through them with you? Or are you confidently waiting for God to do something spectacular, when the miracle that He’s probably wanting to do is to change your insides?