In looking back at various trials in my life, it always amazes me at my lack of faith at certain times. I know that I know that I know that God is real. He has shown up many times in my life and changed it dramatically when I finally decided to turn to Him. But yet, those moments occur that I’m overwhelmed by the world. This is a part of our humanness that we all have to contend with at one time or another.
Consider the Israelites when they left Egypt with Moses (Exodus 14). They had been through some tremendous trials as slaves of Pharaoh. Before their departure, God had sent ten plagues upon Egypt that destroyed crops, livestock and the firstborn of every Egyptian family. The Israelites were immune to the plagues; God protected them. That should have been a huge boost in the faith of the Israelites.
They leave Egypt, finally, after some intense negotiation, with the Lord leading them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The pillars never left them. What more could you ask for? If God would lead me by a pillar of cloud and fire, life would be so much easier. I would know where to go and when to stop. No doubts, no questions asked - another HUGE faith booster for the Israelites.
But yet, when the Israelites are camped by the Red Sea, waiting for the cloud to move again, they look up to see Pharaohs army approaching, and they panic. They start whining to Moses. “What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?’ It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Hadn’t they just experienced God saving them through all the plagues? Not feeling as bad about my lapses of faith after reading this.)
God has already prepared Moses for what is to come. He told Moses that Pharaoh would pursue them. In Verse 4 of Exodus 14, God says, “But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
It occurred to me that God likes to show His power and His glory as much as He can.
Moses gives encouragement to the Israelites by saying to them – verse 13 – “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Wow. Pharaoh’s army is preparing to attack this vulnerable group, and Moses tells them to be still.
I was immediately convicted of my struggles to remain still. I would be the first to pick up my sword and charge, or maybe I would try to negotiate a peaceful surrender. But be still and do nothing?
God has been imparting that message to me over and over for many years now. “Be still and know that I Am God.” That is the answer; the answer when we don’t know what to do; when we don’t know what to do in our marriages, with our children, with our jobs. Be still and pray and put your complete trust in God that He WILL show you the way, even when the enemy is at your doorstep with a full army. Stop trying to do something on your own that may get in the way of God's glory.
And then God tells Moses to have the Israelites move on. He tells Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the water so the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
In verse 17, God says to Moses “I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horseman. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
Of course God cares about the Israelites, but His main focus here is that He will gain glory through this ordeal. The Egyptians will know that He is Lord.
I feel as though I have somehow missed the mark all these years. Yes, we go through trials so we can build our faith and draw closer to God. Yes, we want others to see how God works in our lives. But, we still want it to be about ‘us’, ‘our path’, and ‘our life’.
All the trials we face, all the struggles we go through, all the difficulties we deal with are given to us so that God can show His glory through us. How many times have we interfered with that glory because we wouldn’t be still and stepped out ahead of God? How often do we become consumed by our problems because we take them personally instead of looking at them as an opportunity for God’s glory to shine?
Life isn’t about us. It is about partnering with God to reveal His glory through our behavior and our actions. He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites; He will do the same for us. We should be excited about our trials! Then, we can look forward to God showing up and shining His glory through us. Once we realize that, we can let go of the ‘humanness’ that always gets in the way.
Now I understand why Paul tells us in James 1:2 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” I used to think he was just a little crazy.