Presented by Lisa Bishop
When you are in a difficult season, it can be easy to let your trust waiver. It can be tempting to buy into the lie that God has forgotten about you; to think that God doesn’t really care and that the hardship, loss, or feeling of a lack of direction will never end. When fear of an unknown future causes anxiety or despair it’s a time you will find yourself at a crossroad, a point where you will need to make an important decision, a critical choice.
Will you cling to God and trust him and his faithfulness? Or, will you lean on your own obstructed view, your limited understanding, and succumb to doubt and discouragement, maybe even despair?
Now when I ask this question, I want to make it clear that throughout your Christian journey there will be many crossroads where your faith and trust in Jesus will be tested. Trusting Jesus in all circumstances is something we continue to grow in. It is a lifelong pursuit. In our perfectly curated social media world, we don’t talk much about the messiness of life—a failing marriage, faltering faith, being fired from a job. We see snippets of each other’s lives and think that something must be wrong with ours because while we are dealing with overwhelming fears and anxieties, other people’s worlds look like the fantasy that we wish we were living. But trials and the messiness of life are part of being human. Sometimes we don’t want to be human. We want life to be perfect and it’s not. And after all, that is why we need hope and faith in Jesus, because you will have trials and the hardships of life will test you.
James 1:2-4 reminds us: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (MSG).
Do you consider it a sheer gift when trials and testing, when waiting and uncertainty come your way? It is so hard to trust God in times of trial. We want to wiggle out of the discomfort and get relief from the pressure. We want God to answer us now because we can’t bear the weight of the unknown. Yet these hard places are the very times that your faith matures when you make the choice to trust, to persevere when your faith is tried.
When I think about choosing to trust God in the uncertainty it reminds me of the Israelites and their journey to freedom. In the book of Exodus, we read about God’s freedom mission. The book of Exodus describes a climactic moment in the life of God’s people. It tells the story of the Israelite’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the Lord’s mighty hand. For 400 plus years the people of God were subjected to harsh labor conditions by Pharaoh. As you read the first part of Exodus you witness Pharaoh’s relentless refusal to let God’s people go even after God demonstrates his mighty power and brings several disasters in the form of plagues to Egypt. After the tenth plague Pharaoh finally agrees to release the Israelites and so begins their journey to the Promised Land.
And then this happens next in Exodus 13:17: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt’. So God led the people around the desert road toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 17:17-18a).
Did you catch that? Here the Israelites have been in captivity for 400 plus years, they are finally getting their taste of freedom and God chooses not to lead them on the road that was shorter. He leads them around the desert towards the Red Sea. You and I have the benefit of knowing how the story ends, but the Israelites didn’t know that the reason God was taking them down a less than obvious path was because he knew what was ahead. The all-knowing God knew that if the Israelites would have taken the shorter route they would have traveled through enemy territory and that would have caused them to want to return back to Egypt. Fear would have caused them to forgo freedom and find themselves living back in captivity.
When you are in a season of uncertainty and the road ahead is unclear or obscured, it is easy to cry out to God and say, “Why is this taking so long?” “What are you doing, God?” “Are we there yet?”
Often God’s ways just do not make sense. There are times in your life where with your limited view you see a shorter or what seems to be a more desirable or efficient path and wonder why God seems to be inserting a detour or a delay, and it can be devastating. And this is where choice comes in. In the moments where things don’t make sense in your human understanding, will you choose to rely on your own perspective, or will you choose to press into God and trust him?
Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us great words of wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him; and he will make your paths straight.”
The Message version lays down wisdom like this: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Why is it so hard to trust God when we see his faithfulness all throughout the Bible and when we have experienced his track record, his trustworthiness at other points throughout our life? Trusting God is a constant and consistent decision we need to make. And the choice is not based on your circumstances but grounded in God’s character.
And part of God’s character is that he is omniscient, which means he is all knowing. He is the only one who sees the big picture, and as my friend says, has an aerial view! Isaiah 55:8–9 reminds us that God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God’s infinite thoughts are far greater than your limited ability to comprehend them. His ways don’t always make sense to you, but you can rest in the knowledge that he is always good which means that everything he does ultimately will be turned for your good.
But our human hearts are filled with questions for God. “Why?” “When?” “How?” We often wrestle with faith because of those questions. How can we fully trust a God we don’t understand? How can we have faith when God’s ways seem even, dare I say, unloving at times? When you try to comprehend God’s ways, you can become frustrated. His ways are higher than your ways, and his actions often do not make sense to our earthly minds.
Let’s take a look back at the journey of the Israelites. While it seemed crazy that God would lead them to a place where they were surrounded by their enemies and boxed in by a body of water with nowhere to escape, it is eventually at the Red Sea where the Israelites are once and for all freed from the Egyptians. While the Israelites had no way of knowing how the plan would unfold they did know that God had promised them freedom, and yet their current circumstances had them freaking out.
In fact further in Exodus as the Israelites see their enemies approaching, Exodus 14:10b-12 says, “They were terrified and cried out to The Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? 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 die in the desert!”
In the midst of uncertainty, the Israelites were willing to go back to captivity. In the face of their fear of the future they were willing to forfeit freedom. Rather than choosing to trust an unknown future to a known God, they choose fear over believing God’s faithfulness. Can you relate?
Maybe you have thought, “God you say you are good but this situation doesn’t feel so good, I don’t see a way through.” Or, “God, you say that you will never leave me or forsake me but it certainly seems like you are silent.”
Where has fear taken over in your life? How are you forgetting the faithfulness and the promise of God? That he is for you, will not leave or abandon you. He will lead you, guide you, and fight for you: He knows what he is doing. Even though you may not be able to make sense of the twists and turns, God sees you. Even when God’s ways do not make sense, he has a plan.
In verse 13 Moses speaks back to the Israelites overwhelming concern and worry and says, “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 be still” (Exodus 13:13-14).
I know what it’s like to be in a place of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I know what it’s like to wonder and question if God really cares and if he is going to come through. You might be in a season of job loss and you see no opportunities on the horizon. Maybe you are in a really difficult season in your marriage and you just don’t see it getting better. Or, you have a kid that is wayward and you fear what their future holds. Maybe you had a bad review at work, and you fear losing your job. You long to be married and fear what a life of singleness means for you. You are in a financial crisis and you don’t see a way out.
It is in these moments when you only see a sliver of the picture that you have a choice to make. Will you trust God? And it’s not based on feeling, it’s based on facts. God says,
- Do not be afraid.
- Stand firm.
- You will see deliverance.
- The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.
The Lord sees you and what you are going through. While it may seem like he is silent, he’s not. The waiting can be gut wrenching but trust that God is actively at work in your life. Don’t lose hope or get weary because it’s on God’s timeline and not yours. Anxiety and worry will try to rear their ugly heads and rule your thoughts and emotions, but these verses are a reminder that God is working on your behalf. These truths are your reminder in uncertain times to compose yourself with confidence in God. When it seems like there is no way out and no way through, this is the time when your faith life is forced into the open and no matter how difficult it is you are called to stand firm in the truth.
We have an insatiable desire to know the future and manage everything in our lives. It is as though we know better than God and our plans and methods are better. When your false illusion of control is shattered, you are called to surrender to your Heavenly Father who knows you and loves you.At just the right time, when things seemed hopeless, God parted the waters and made a way for his people to pass through unharmed, and for their enemies to be defeated.
Just as he did with the Israelites, he will make a way for what seems impossible to you.
This is where faith needs to trump your feelings. It is important to notice what you are feeling and resist letting your feelings rule you. Bring your emotions to God. Renew your mind. Immerse yourself in the Bible. Remind yourself of all of the stories when God came through for his people. Sometimes you need that! Reminders, recounting, and rehearsing truth to yourself.
As a matter of fact, as you start a new year it could be a great opportunity to start a new habit. Take the time to write down all of the ways God has been faithful to you throughout the years. Get yourself in the rhythm of journaling and writing down ways you see God at work in your life. Sometimes you need to train your eyes to see. If that sounds overwhelming, find a way to record and remember that works for you. Something you can look back to that will keep you grounded and hopeful through all of life’s ups and downs, reminding you that God has a plan and to trade your fear, disillusionment, and dismay for trusting in him.
When you are struggling, say, “Jesus help me!” “God be merciful to me.” “Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see all of the ways you are helping me.”
Make the choice to trust. Declare, “Lord, I choose to trust you because you are trustworthy!”
Remember to praise God in all seasons and practice the praise of the Psalmist in Psalm 34:1. “I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praise” (NLT).