The Cost of Giving Up

Giving up is easy. Just throw your hands up, walk away from what’s challenging you or frustrating you, and stop thinking about it. It doesn’t take effort or inner strength to give up. It just takes a choice.

I’ve been there before. Actually, I think I was there this morning. Faced with all this overwhelming stress, this crushing workload, and the exhausting struggle of planning for the future, I considered just walking away from all of it. I was ready this morning. Because what does giving up actually cost?

If I didn’t have to work so hard to make a living, maybe I could rest. If I didn’t have to take care of family members and friends so often, maybe I could actually take care of myself for a change. If I didn’t have to plan for the future outcome of two businesses, maybe I could make one of them work. Sounds to me like giving up would be a greater benefit to me than pressing onward has been.

But is that the truth?

The truth is no matter how little I work, I don’t rest. I don’t know how, and that’s a soul issue. The same is true in taking care of myself, and spending more time to myself won’t help my heart any. And maybe my focus is pulled in two directions with two businesses, but I’m not ultimately responsible for the success of either. And maybe it seems like giving up won’t cost me anything, but that’s an illusion. Because giving up on any of those fronts would cost me the blessings I haven’t received yet.

Work will be rewarded (2 Chronicles 15:7). That’s a promise God makes us. When we work for Him, He promises to reward us for what we’ve done. But the truth about rewards from God is that they don’t always follow the work immediately. Sometimes you have to wait for a while.

Think of it like a harvest. It’s wintertime now, and across Kansas all the wheat fields are dormant. They were all planted before the first freeze, and most fields are already sprouted. Some are green, although right now most are yellowish and brown because we’re having such a dry year. But the farmer who planted the field doesn’t know how the field is going to grow.

He planted the field before winter, and he’s trusting that the field will bring a great harvest in summer. But there’s six months between planting and harvesting.

The same is true with any great objective in our lives. First you plant the seed. Then, you wait for it to grow. Then, you keep waiting. Sometimes you have to tend it, water it, feed it. But mostly you have to leave it alone and just keep living your life. Eventually, the time will come when you can harvest, when the seed has grown into a strong, beautiful plant. But it never happens overnight.

Think about it.

When you try to get in shape, you have to exercise. You don’t develop strong muscles overnight. You have to keep at it. You have to keep walking, keep lifting weights, keep doing your best and working hard to be able to claim the benefits of exercise.

When you start a business, you can’t just let it sit. You have to work it. You have to build contacts, reach out to potential customers, create products, manage campaigns, and talk to people you don’t know. Your business won’t sell a million products overnight (unless you’re just super blessed … and if you are, can you give me a lesson?).

What would have happened if J.K. Rowling gave up after her tenth publisher’s rejection? What would have happened if Edison gave up on inventing the light bulb or if the Wright brothers decided that they should stick to making bicycles?

Giving up before they succeeded wouldn’t have cost them anything they currently had. It would have cost them what they were going to achieve. And it’s the same with the rest of us.

If you give up now, you’re forfeiting something great. No, you don’t have it now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get it. You’ll get that reward when the time is right (Galatians 6:9) and not a moment sooner.

Here on Earth, we get focused on time. We live and die by the clock. But when we come face to face with God’s schedule, we need to readjust our perspective. Time has no meaning to Him. He made time. He is beyond time, and so He’s not subject to it. God sees time very differently than we do (2 Peter 3:8-9). And just because He isn’t running according to our watches, doesn’t mean He’s late.

God is always on time. We’re the ones with the watches that run too fast or too slow.

Think about your deadlines that way. So many times I feel the urge to give up because I’m not going to achieve something by the time I set. But who cares about the time I set? My timetable isn’t the one that matters. So how can I even consider giving up when I don’t even have access to the timetable God’s running on?

Yes, giving up is easy. But it costs more than we’ll ever know. So just hold on. I know it’s hard. I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s taking everything you have to just crawl out of bed in the morning. (I know because I’m there too.) But the reward is bigger and better than we can imagine.

Keep walking. Keep writing. Keep believing. Keep building. Keep moving forward. Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. The ones who came before us endured more than we have, and they’ve received their rewards in full, just like God promised (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Who’s to say we won’t be next?

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Do you trust God or not?

A spider monkey hanging in a tree outside the Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Guatemala

The locals call it “the tour the monkeys take.” The canopy zip line near the Mayan ruins of Tikal is a series of cables strung from platform to platform in the thick of the Guatemalan jungle. It’s not uncommon to spot spider monkeys and bright-feathered birds as you sail from tree to tree.

I’ve never been on it, and I’m not planning to go anytime soon. But I know loads of folks who’ve done it. And I admire their fearlessness. They’ll strap themselves into the harness, hook themselves on the cable, and fling their bodies into the open air of the jungle.

If it were me standing on that platform with nothing but a slim cable to support my flight from tree to tree, leaping into the air like some kind of Superman would be the last desire in my heart. But while I haven’t done it physically, I’ve done it in other ways.

I walked away from my high-paying job to start my own business. I elected to write a novel that would challenge the way people see Christ-followers. I traveled alone to dangerous parts of the world. I climbed behind the wheel of a car after surviving a terrible wreck.

No, it’s not the same as riding a zip line through a jungle canopy. But it was just as crazy.

Facing the future can be terrifying. With everything we know is happening today, it’s hard to see the future as anything less than bleak. Yet some people still walk toward it with their heads held high. They charge toward the unknown without a hint of fear, risking life and limb as they fling themselves into the air.

How can you embrace the terror of the future without collapsing under the weight of everything you don’t know? How is it possible to be brave when all you have to go on is how much failure hurts?

Well, do you trust God or not?

That’s really the only question that matters. But it’s the one of the most difficult questions you’ll ever answer.

Trusting God can be difficult. God is perfect. That’s one of the things that makes Him so scary. Because He’s right all the time.

So what happens when you trust God for something, and you don’t get it? It happens more often than not. You think you know what He’s calling you to do. You’re sure you’re on the right track. You believe it with all your heart, and then BAM! The world changes. You lose that person you love. You lose that relationship you needed. You lose the job you had to have.

So much for trusting God, right? All it gets you is more pain, more heartache, more trouble, more stress. You trust Him to take care of things, and all you get is more difficulty and struggle.

But doesn’t it make sense that part of trusting God is trusting that He’s not done yet? If we say we trust Him, why do we give up when life gets tough?

The truth is, God never promised you wouldn’t get hurt. He never promised that you’d get to keep everything you have, relationships or possessions or positions included.

So many times I think we project our own wants and desires onto God’s promises. So when we hear Him promise to protect us, we think that means He’ll prevent heartache or that He’ll stop anything from happening that will hurt us. And that’s not the case.

The Bible doesn’t say trust God and you’ll never be hurt. The Bible says to trust God because He knows what He’s doing. Trust Him because even when you get hurt, He’ll stay by your side (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Your life isn’t what you expected. So what? Do you really want to limit yourself to what you expect? Why not believe that God has something bigger and better in store?

Your boyfriend or girlfriend left. I’m truly sorry, but maybe that’s not who God had in mind for you.

You lost a business deal or an election or a relationship. Do you really think God is so small that He can only work within the boundaries of your expectations?

I have trust issues. Everyone does. And God knows that. But He’s done so much to prove Himself. How much more does He have to do to demonstrate that He is good, that He is faithful, and that He is worthy of trust?

You can’t half-trust Him. Half-trusting is putting on the harness and staying on the ground. It’s writing your book and never telling anyone about it.

So decide. Ask yourself. Do you trust God or not? If you don’t, that’s fine. That’s your choice. And you have the right to make that decision for yourself.

But if you do trust Him, then it’s time to start living like it. Stop wallowing in the what-ifs and might-have-beens. Stop clinging to the life you expected. Stop pining for the dreams that didn’t come true. Open your eyes and see the world for what it is, see God for who He is, and remember that He isn’t finished yet. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Do you trust God?

Yes, you’ll probably be afraid. But that’s what bravery is—action in the face of fear, boldness in the face of danger (Proverbs 28:1).

You can stay on the ground if you want. But God has so much more for you. If you trust Him, He’ll take you places you never dreamed you could go, and He’ll do more through you than you ever thought possible.

Don’t give power to powerless things

We have a little garden plot here are Safe Haven Farm. It isn’t much, and it’s actually much less now than it used to be. But we get some fresh veggies out of it.

When I was younger, we’d eat out of the garden. We had potatoes and carrots and onions. We had everything to make salsa, except the tortilla chips. I loved the results of gardening. What I didn’t like was the work behind getting those results.

In this part of Kansas, our soil is fertile, but it’s filled with clay, which makes digging difficult. And then there are the weeds.

Weeds, weeds, everywhere, from dandelions to cheat grass and everything in between. Weeds make gardening difficult. They sap the nutrients from the fruit-bearing plants, and sometimes they’re difficult to distinguish too.

And even if you can tell the difference between a weed and a real plant, usually their roots are woven together, so you can’t pull one up without killing the other.

I hate weeds. Everyone does. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re part of the original curse (Genesis 3:17). But weeds don’t just affect our gardens. Weeds can affect our lives too. Weeds can be spiritual.

Idolatry is a spiritual weed. Ever thought about that?

When I think about idols and idolatry, I envision mass groups of people in robes bowing down to bronze statues or singing in foreign languages. Like some twisted church service thousands of years in the past when people didn’t know any better.

Maybe in some cases that’s true. Historically some cultures did bow down before forged statues, but you won’t see that kind of idolatry happening in the United States. American idolatry is much more subversive.

Sports. Artists. Politicians. Performers. Your job. Your friends. Your family. Idols can take the shape of even the most innocent relationships. It’s the power you give them over your life that makes them idols.

Those bronze statues people worshiped in ancient times had no power at all, except what the people who bowed down surrendered (Jeremiah 10:5).

We all have idols. Let’s just admit that right now, because it’s true. We all have something or someone in our lives that is fighting to take precedence over God and His plans. The question is who you’re willing to surrender your life to.

An idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. So to figure out what idols are in your life, you have to ask yourself what role God should be filling.

God is our comforter. He should be the one who helps us manage our stress. Are you turning to something else other than His Word or His promises to calm you down? That’s an idol.

God is our sufficiency. He should be the one who makes us whole. Are you looking to another relationship to complete you? Are you looking to something you can achieve to make you feel worthwhile? That’s an idol.

God is our security. He should be the one who makes us feel safe, who makes us feel loved. Are you looking to what another person makes you feel to sooth your insecurity? Are you looking to your success personally to make you feel safe? That’s an idol.

Your sports team may be a community, but it shouldn’t be the root of your community. Your job may be how God provides for you, but never forget that it is still God who provides. And you may never be happy with the way you look, but you should always remember that God made you the way you are. And God doesn’t make mistakes.

But identifying idols is only one part of this. And it’s the easiest part. Removing idols from your life is difficult, painful work. Not only does it hurt you, but it hurts the people around you.

You have to dig up your life to expose the roots of the problem. So do the people who care about you.

If you’re blessed (like I am), you have people in your life who love you so deeply that they’re willing to experience the pain of uprooting your idols alongside you. No matter how much it hurts them or inconveniences them, they’ll hang in there right beside you. They’ll walk you through the pain and the heartache of realizing how flawed you actually are, and they’ll love you throughout it all.

But how much better would it be if we didn’t let idols put down roots in our lives? Remember, idols only have the power we give them (Jeremiah 10:5). So wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we didn’t give our idols any power at all?

That job you think matters so much? Instead of trusting your finances, how about you try trusting your faith?

That person whose opinion will make or break you? How about you care less about what they think and more about what God says?

That relationship you think you can’t lose? Ask God what He thinks about you and then reevaluate how the people in your life treat you.

Identify what could become an idol before it puts down roots. It’s like pre-treating your garden plot for weeds before you plant. That way you can pull it out before it damages your life and the lives of those around you. (Matthew 13:24-30)

God has give you the power to choose who will control your life. You can either hand that power over to powerless things, or you can give it back to God, who can actually do something with it.

Which do you think is a better idea?

Give God time to keep His promise

I try to control too many things. But I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure when it started. I just have this driving urge to keep a handle on life so it won’t get away from me. Which is ridiculous, as any self-respecting Christ-follower knows (Luke 17:33). But, hey, I’m being honest here.

I try to control the silliest things too. When I go grocery shopping, I try to think of everything I need for about a month. Grocery stores aren’t exactly convenient to where I live, so it’s easier to make one big trip. But that means I have to plan ahead. That means I have to make meal plans. That means designing several different meals all at once and hoping that life doesn’t go crazy between shopping trips.

The trouble is, life always goes crazy. Life always screws up my plans, and usually I’m left with expired produce, questionable meat, or stale crackers. And none of that would have happened if I’d planned a week in advance rather than a month.

I’m not saying don’t plan. But what I am saying is don’t rush ahead too far, because you never know what curve balls are going to come at you.

Life will take crazy twists and turns. God will lead you down paths you never dreamed possible. He may take you down roads you never even thought you wanted to go down, and somewhere along the way you’ll realize you never belonged anywhere else. But that’s all part of His promise (Psalm 37:4). And God can be trusted to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

But that means we have to wait.

I hate waiting. Maybe you didn’t know that about me. Unlikely if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. Waiting is my least favorite thing.

At least, it used to be. God has been working on my old stubborn Scottish heart this past year, and I’ve begun to see the joy we can have when we release the things that scare us and trust God completely.

I had to go there several times in 2016. More than once, I had to pry my own hands off of my life and hand it over to God. And then I had to sit and wait and trust and pray, and that was literally all I could do.

No, I should clarify. It was all I did, but I could have done several other things.

I could have gone back to the corporate world and asked for my job back. I could have gone to my many loving and supportive friends and asked for a loan, just big enough so that I could afford groceries for the next month. I could have gone to a pawn shop and sold anything I had of value (I’m not joking, the thought did occur to me).

I could have done any of those things, but one question kept hovering at the back of my mind: “Do you trust God or not?”

I told Him at the beginning of this journey that I wanted to rely on faith rather than finances. I told Him I didn’t care what was coming, that I wanted to place my trust and my life and my future entirely in His hands. And if this was the life I was supposed to be living, I needed Him to provide for me, and if it wasn’t, I needed Him to stop.

Good gracious, friends, be careful what you ask for. Because God will hold you to declarations like that.

A few times throughout last year I thought God had stopped providing, but that was because I was planning too far ahead. So I started looking at life differently. I woke up every morning and thanked God for what I had that day, because every day I had what I needed for that day. And when tomorrow arrived, I would have what I needed then. God just wouldn’t always let me know ahead of time.

That is the recurring tale of my 2016. Until the end of December when God opened his storehouses and poured some major blessings on my silly head—blessings enough to provide over and above what I had expected for 2017.

While part of me is concerned He’s providing this much this quickly and telling me about it, the louder part of me is simply choosing to be thankful. I don’t want to forget what He’s taught me this year. Even if I have enough for months and months, it could still all be lost in an instant.

God has to be enough. Just God. Not money. Not possessions. Not power or influence or book sales or car maintenance or health insurance. All those things are wonderful blessings, but God is enough for me. He’s enough to provide what I need when I need it, and He doesn’t have to tell me what He’s doing or when He’s doing it. He’s God. He’s got a plan. He’s working everything out for my good. (Romans 8:28)

My part in this story is to be still. To trust. To wait. My responsibility is to give God time to keep the promises He’s made me, because He will. He always has, and He always blows me away with His goodness and generosity.

Are you trying to control your life? What about your finances or your health or people in your life? You can’t. You need to let go and give it to God and trust that He will work things out. And once you do that, you need to wait.

Even if it feels like you’re standing still. Even if it feels like you’re wasting time. Even when it feels like you should be doing something—anything. Just wait.

You’ll see the door when He opens it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind.

You can build on the truth

Life is nuts. Or is it just me? Maybe I only spend time with super busy people, but it feels like everyones’ lives are spinning out of control in the chaos that is our world. We have less time to produce, less time to rest, less time for family, less time for friends, less time for everything in our lives, yet somehow, in spite of working harder and longer than any other civilization in history, we get less done.

The American Dream? Right. It’s a Ferris wheel, spinning around and around and going nowhere. That’s how life feels most days. I don’t mean to be a downer, but can anyone else identify with this feeling?

Chaos. Futility. Constant exhaustion and the overwhelming certainty that you’ll amount to nothing but failure at the end of your life, regardless of how hard you work.

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

When I find myself sinking into that mindset, it’s time for a walk. I need to get away from my computer, get out of my own head, and go somewhere else, a place where I can recognize what’s really true and what really isn’t. For me, that’s outside on our patio with a kitten in my lap. For you, it may look different (although you should never discount how soothing the interaction with an animal can be).

Regardless, you have to stop moving. You have to stop thinking. You have to be still. Only when you’re still can you truly let your brain process, otherwise it’ll keep running in the background.

Once I’m still, then I can think. Then, I have to go back to basics.

What do I know for sure?

So much of what I worry about and stress over are unknowns. They’re the things I can’t control, the outcomes I can’t manipulate, the opinions I can’t change. No, none of that is my responsibility, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. And once I start thinking about all those things, I wind myself up into a ball of nerves and frustration, and before I know it, I’m snapping at people and just feeling generally angry. Then, whatever productivity I might have had goes out the window.

If you can’t identify things you are sure of, there might be something else going on. But I’m willing to bet that everyone knows the grass is green. Everyone knows the sky looks blue. Everyone knows gravity is constant, or at least constant enough to keep us from being flung off this spinning dirtball into the void.

Basics.

The sun will set tonight. It will rise tomorrow. And you can’t do anything to stop it either way. In one minute, sixty seconds will have passed. You need to drink water, or you’ll end up dehydrated. You need to eat, or you’ll starve. And everyone needs hugs, even people who don’t think they do.

What are the basics you know?

ps46-1-3I also know that God is in control. I know God is good. I know He has never promised to leave me. He’s promised to work all the crap in my life out for good, to bring glory to His name and to provide a beautiful future for me. I know He has my best interests in mind and that He’s the only one big enough to weave all the disjointed strings of my life into a masterpiece.

Maybe you don’t know all that. And that’s okay. But I do. There’s no promise that God has made to me that He hasn’t kept. He’s always there. He always keeps me on track. And everything I do, I want to do for Him, because He’s the only one who can make everything work out.

Those are my basics. Those are my certainties. That’s bedrock, where I start building again. Life and the world and people and circumstances can knock down everything I’ve built (and they have), but nothing can touch that foundation. Lord willing, nothing will.

There are several times in the Bible where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He says it so many times, and I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget. But if we can just remember to be still—to stop moving and thinking and running ahead—and remind ourselves who God is and what He’s promised, life won’t feel so chaotic anymore.

Because once you know one truth, you can build on it. Because rock is solid, storms won’t move it. Because storms won’t move it, you can build on it. Because you can build on it, you can restore what you lost.

Because God is God, we can trust Him. Think about what you can build on that truth.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

Life is nuts, but God is good. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, He’s got it all under control. So stop chasing your tail. Take a minute. Remember who He is, and if you don’t know who He is, learn. Then, ask Him for help. He won’t turn you away, and He won’t ignore you, not if you truly come to Him for help. He may not give you the answer you want, but if you really trust Him, you’ll do what He says.

Tomorrow will be better if you wait

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] like coffee. Any kind of coffee. Hot or cold, blended or iced, black or with cream, Americano or latte, plain or flavored. Whatever. I like it all. In the heat of summertime in Kansas, there’s almost nothing better than a big Frappucino from Starbucks (yes, I like Starbucks coffee).

I didn’t used to like them, though, because they didn’t last very long. And once I finished, I was left with a cup full of partially melted ice mixed with watered-down coffee and slightly chocolate-flavored foamy stuff. Bleck! It was so much better to get hot coffee and sip it slowly.

But during the summer in Kansas where we had more than 30 days over 100 degrees, I broke down and bought a Frappucino. But something happened, and I had to let it sit for a moment before I could come back to it. And guess what? When I was done, I didn’t have ice left.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. But the next time I got a Frappucino, I let it sit for a little while, and the same thing happened. I let the ice get started melting, and I sipped it slowly. It lasted much longer, and it tasted much better than it did when I drank it all quickly.

It was better to wait

But waiting is hard. It takes effort and discipline. It takes concentration because you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re choosing to wait. You have to force your brain to remember that the end result will be better if you just hold your horses.

I’m not good at waiting. I see a path that looks promising, and I want to run down it at full speed, barefoot, hair loose, no bags packed or itinerary planned. And I don’t care if I skin my knees or break my toes or have to turn around seven times. At least I’m moving forward, right?

But sometimes moving forward only causes more trouble.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued.[/su_pullquote]

Think about quicksand. Your instinct is to fight to escape, to kick and thrash and flail, but that only makes you sink faster. But you don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued. And your best hope to survive is to hold still and wait.

Life’s like that too. But if you think that waiting is the same as doing nothing, you’re wrong.

Waiting is hardest job you’ll ever work. It’s the most challenging class in the school of hard knocks. It’s the most impossible obstacle course you’ll ever run.

Our culture has forgotten how to wait. We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re ruled by our watches and our calendars, and we’ve learned to settle for what’s passable and immediate rather than what’s excellent and inconvenient.

I’m so guilty of this, but I learned the hard way that I can’t rush God.

lam3-26He’s got plans for me, just like He has plans for you. But no matter how badly I want to achieve His goal for my life, I don’t get to decide when it happens. I can strive and fight and push and run as hard as I can, but I can’t move Him. God does what He wants. I can’t change that. And if I really understood His plans, I wouldn’t want to change it.

The Bible says it’s good to wait on God (Lamentations 3:26). I struggle with that. Nothing about waiting is good. It turns your stomach upside down. It turns your hair gray. It makes you cranky and irritable.

Or does it? Does waiting really do all that? Or do we do that to ourselves because we refuse to relinquish control of our lives, our dreams, our plans to the Person who already owns them?

Stuck in summer

I wake up in the morning, and I stare down a beautiful curving path into an autumn forest. Line with golden-leafed trees, blazing red maples and shimmering, white-barked aspens, and it smells like cinnamon and nutmeg and joy. There’s a giant pile of leaves just ready for me to dive into, and pumpkin-flavored everything is waiting just out of reach.

But I can’t get there because I’m stuck in summer. In the heat and the deadness of post-harvest dirt. There’s no end in sight. And I want that world so badly I can taste it, and I can see exactly how I’m supposed to get there. So why shouldn’t I run? Why shouldn’t I just leap forward and reach for that dream? It’s right there.

[su_pullquote] While I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is.[/su_pullquote]

But it isn’t just right there. I can’t see the twists and turns. I can’t see the distance or the effort or the disappointments or the successes that I’ll need to experience before I get there. But God can. And that’s why I have to wait.

That’s why waiting matters. That’s why waiting is good. Just like a Frappucino is better once the ice has started melting, tomorrow will be better if I wait until God says it’s time to run.

lam3-22-23Choosing to wait is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making the conscious decision to set aside what I want right now in favor of what God wants right now has taken more faith than I thought I had. But I’m still here. I’m still waiting. And I’m not going to stop, because while I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is and who He wants me to be.

Every morning, I get to start over fresh (Lamentations 3:22-24). New day, new mercy, same God. He doesn’t change. He won’t be rushed. And His timing really is perfect.

Biblical stress relief is a thing

Stress is normal, right? It’s how we’re supposed to live. It’s how we demonstrate that we’re effective workers.

I mean, if I’m not stressed out about something, does that make me a sub-standard employee? Does that make me lazy or disinterested? Everybody knows that the best employees are always rushing, always exhausted, always stressed about something, right?

I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re physically capable of carrying that kind of stress for an extended period of time. So how do we change it? How do we fix it?

I’m not an expert, but I have lived with a lot of stress in my life. And I’m tired of it. I don’t want to do it anymore. I know that following Jesus isn’t easy (John 16), but Jesus also says that His burden is light and those who seek rest should come to Him (Matthew 11:30). So where’s the middle ground?

That’s how I found Exodus 14.

Yes, Exodus. The Old Testament, Moses and the Burning Bush, ten plagues of Egypt–Exodus. Just about everybody knows the basic story.

The Basics

Moses (Charlton Heston) and Rameses (Yul Brenner) in The Ten Commandments

Moses (Charlton Heston) and Rameses (Yul Brenner) in The Ten Commandments

God tells this shepherd dude, Moses, to go to Pharaoh (King of Egypt) and demand the release of the Hebrews, the slave nation Egypt was working to death. (Cue Charlton Heston: “Let my people go!”) Pharaoh, of course, doesn’t budge. (Cue Yul Brenner: “So let it be written; so let it be done.”) God smites Egypt with fleas and frogs and boils. Oh my! Pharaoh relents, and the Hebrews go free. But that’s not the end of the story.

God tells Moses to lead the Hebrews (a.k.a. Israelites) to the Red Sea. Basically, God directs them into a dead end. The Israelites don’t know that. But God makes sure that Pharaoh knows. And God sets it up so that the Israelites, His beloved people, are like sitting ducks. Even more than that, He “hardens Pharaoh’s heart” so that the King of Egypt will come after the Israelites.

Pharaoh does. He and his whole army chase them down, and God parts the Red Sea so that His people can safely cross. Then, God collapses the Red Sea on the Egyptian army as they’re in pursuit. Not a single one survived.

It’s sobering to remember just who God is and what He’s capable of, isn’t it?

So where’s the stress relief?

Look. God got them into this situation. He told Moses where to set up camp. He knew it was a dead end. He knew they were vulnerable. And then He went and ensured that Pharaoh and his entire army would come after them. Why?

“I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!” (Exodus 14:17-18)

God put His people in this situation so that all of Egypt could know who He is. God let the Israelites face terror and annihilation so that the world could know His great name and know that if they turned to Him, they could be saved.

But what matters about this whole story is the fact that God got them into that mess, and He was the only one who could get them out of it again.

[su_pullquote]God got them into that mess, and He was the only one who could get them out of it again.[/su_pullquote]

Are you following Jesus today? Are you living for God, doing your best to keep His Word, to trust Him? I am. But that doesn’t make life easier. In spite of doing everything God asks of me, I usually get more trouble. But instead of handing my troubles to God, I clutch them tighter. I try to fix them myself. But I didn’t run into this trouble because I was doing my own thing. I ran into trouble because I was following Jesus.

That means it’s not my trouble to fix. It’s His.

I shouldn’t stress myself out trying to solve problems I can’t solve. But that’s where my stress mostly comes from. Instead, I need to trust that God will provide a solution My when it’s time.

It’s not a “get out of jail free” card, though. You can’t look at every situation in your life this way. The first thing you have to do is check your heart. Are you actually following God? There’s a chance your own actions have led to this difficulty you’re facing.

But if your heart is clean before Him, if you’re honestly following Him with everything you have and trouble still finds you (it will), remember this.

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14

Isn’t it possible that the things that are stressing you out right now—the ones you can’t control—have actually come from God? Maybe God wants to show how awesome He is through your life. Maybe God wants everyone to know His name through you.

exodus14-14Hold on to that with both hands. Recognize that He’s the one who calls the shots. Let Him work. Get out of His way. Stop trying to control things yourself and trust Him like you say you do.

My God moves mountains and parts oceans. He can do the impossible because that’s who He is. And when I consider all the trouble in my life, I need an impossible God to help me. And if that means He has to let me sweat a bit in order to help everyone else recognize who He is, bring it on.

My life is in His hands. So why should I be afraid of anything? He got me into this. He can get me out of it.