Julia stands perfectly still in the middle of the trail. The memory of her mother passing away two years ago on this day halted her steps. Tears trickle down her face as she breathes in every detail of this moment. The spectacular view, the brisk air, the way her heart feels as it beats in her chest and remembering her mother’s sweet smile, are all whispering to her, “You are alive and loved by God.” Her feet move again, distancing her from this tender moment of reflection, yet these same feet have brought her closer to the heart of God.
Since her mother’s death, she has spent numerous predawn hours reading the Bible, praying and being honest with God. The pen in her hand and the pages of her journal have become tools to reconcile her fears and doubts with God’s amazing love and promises. Acknowledging to God how she “really” feels about her life is helping her get to a place of faith.
Julia is a fictional character I made up to describe my realty. My mother passed away on February 10th, 2018, exactly two years ago today. Two months prior to her death, I got divorced. One month prior to my divorce my sister died. Since then I have spent countless hours coming before God with raw emotion. The stillness that my character, Julia, is practicing is the same kind of stillness I have been striving to practice also. I believe it is the same kind of stillness that Moses instructed the Israelites to have in Exodus 14.
The Israelites were in full panic mode as they stood before the red sea while looking back at the Egyptians gaining ground towards them. They were being chased by the people who enslaved them for many decades. They were in this predicament because Pharaoh changed his mind about allowing Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
This is what the Israelites said to Moses:
Exodus 14: 11- 12 They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 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? 12 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!”
The Israelites were anxious and fearful and blamed Moses for their quandary. They already forgot that God had performed many miracles to bring them to this moment in time – out of Egypt and standing before the red sea. They hit a mental and physical wall and they chose to be reactionary without reasoning.
If any one of us was in this situation, most likely we would see it as impossible. Death seems imminent with movement in any direction. Doesn’t that happen sometimes in our lives when no direction seems the right way to go? It is during these times our instinct is to panic, blame, get angry and give into hysterical fears. Hard times are inevitable, so we need to build our faith in the everyday difficulties and not be reactionary. Then we are prepared for the larger battles.
When our go-to response to handling difficult situations in our lives is fearful, anxious or reactionary, then perhaps we need to evaluate if we are willing to practice the habit of being still before God.
Moses answered the people in Exodus 14:13-15. This is what he told them to do.
- 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.
Moses was able to think differently in this dire situation. He focused on God and God alone. He believed that God had a plan. Why would God do many miracles to get them out of Egypt just to end in their death when they finally got out? Moses words taught them an important principal.
Movement forward is much more productive when stillness precedes it.
In Exodus 14:15-18, God gives Moses specific instructions on how they were to move forward:
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 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 horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
Moses did exactly what God said to do and what happened next was the parting of the red sea so that the Israelites could walk on dry land across the sea to the other side. The sea wall came crashing down on the Egyptians just as the Israelites made it to the other side.
How do we imitate Moses who can evaluate a dismal situation with emotional fortitude and trust in God? I believe it takes a lot of practice being still before God and reconciling his character and promises with our hysterical fears and doubts.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
I love this verse because God promises to instruct and teach us the way we should go. And God does this with a loving eye on us. Thanks God! I don’t want to be the mule in my relationship with God. But in order to not be a stubborn mule, I’m going to need to spend time each morning allowing God to instruct and teach me the way I should go. I need to put his Grace to work in my life by coming to him with the good, bad and ugly in my heart. I need to process my doubts and fears rather then ignore or bury them. Basically, I need to grow emotionally strong so I will be able to move forward with emotional strength.
What about you? Are you in the practice of being still before God? If not, I hope you are inspired by Moses and the Israelites as I have been.