What thought is currently waking you up early in the morning at the start of this new year?
There are certainly more anxieties than this short list – and certainly I could be much more specific about the foreboding feelings we experience in the dark hours of night.
And the pandemic is not helping.
I woke early this morning.
But I wasn’t alone.
I heard my son in his room.
I rose from bed and entered his bedroom and asked, “Are you okay?”
Guess what his first words were?
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
“The future,” he answered.
I approached my son’s bedside, and we began an early, early morning conversation about his fears and anxieties. I hugged my son as we talked. He needed my touch. He needed my assurance. And more importantly, my son needs the assurance of his God that everything is going to be okay.
The pandemic has shaken us all up, hasn’t it?
Of course, we’ve never known the future about anything. However, the pandemic has upended our hopes, our dreams, our plans, and even our place in this world. It did for our family. We really haven’t recovered from being uprooted from Africa yet.
What is helping us keep moving forward – despite our fears, sadness, and loss?
One thing in particular – God’s word.
My sons and I are focusing upon the stories, the exhortations, and the guidance and counsel of God’s word to help us keep moving forward in life.
Recently Jake, Caleb, and I read this section of the well-told miracle of the Israelites escape from Egypt:
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. 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 to die in the desert!”
Moses answered the people, “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.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”
New International Version, Exodus 14: 10 – 15
There have been many moments in the past two years that each member of our family has expressed desires to return to Africa. Of course, our situation couldn’t be more different than the Israelites. We were not enslaved or oppressed in southern Africa. We were living an incredible life serving with and alongside Africans for God’s purpose and God’s glory. We loved it.
By contrast, the Israelites traveled a daunting route which ultimately led, in their eyes, to a perilous, dead end – an impassable expanse of water blocked their way. When they turned back, their eyes fell upon the massive Egyptian contingent of soldiers who pursued them.
The Israelites trust and faith in their God ebbed away into the waters of the Red Sea.
Only terror and remorse.
The Israelites expected to die in the desert.
Moses, their leader, had a different thought and vision.
He believed that the Lord had drawn Pharaoh and his army out to display his power and authority. Moses called upon his God for salvation believing that a miraculous fight was in the hands of the Lord.
And that is usually where many stop and exclaim in devotions and Sunday morning messages with the words of Moses:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians (worries, fears, and anxieties of your life) you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
But standing still and taking a passive stance is not the position that the Lord desires in this miracle.
The Lord wants the Israelites to move. In fact, the words in the New International Version are “Move on!”
The Hebrew transliterated word for ‘move on’ is nasa. Nasa means to go forward, to pull up from your position, and to start a journey.
The Lord exhorted this new nation of Israel to step into the sea and keep moving forward!
Their past loomed dangerously behind them.
Their present demanded courageous action.
Their future commanded courage, trust, and faith beyond the other side of the sea.
Yet, the Lord’s words were clear.
“Tell the Israelites to move on.”
Of course, the Israelites could have stayed still. Had they succumbed to their paralyzing fears, we would have a very different story to discuss. But they didn’t stay stuck in that moment of dread and despair, they shifted their stance. And when they took that first courageous step into the Red Sea, the Lord divided the waters, and their impossible impasse was no more.
This is such an encouragement to our family – and perhaps, you, too.
Of course, there are times to remain still and wait upon the Lord.
Yet, there are also moments when the dangerous past locks us into place. Anger, hurt, betrayal, disappointment, fear, anxiety, distrust, bitterness, and other defilements of the heart paralyze us. We are -maybe – too comfortable with our fears, worries, and doubts, and distrust that the Lord can do anything new or different with us.
But, He can!
As I shared with my son this morning, the Lord is able to do a new thing in his young life. It’s our responsibility to move forward and learn and grow through the Red Seas of our present circumstance. And as we do so, the goodness of God’s care and God’s promise will be revealed – in time.
For just like the Israelites, we do not know what is beyond today – this present moment demands our courage and our action. We are not in Africa anymore. We have moved to a new place which expects new behavior, new learning, and new growth.
So, my dear friends, what do we each need to move on from?
Move on from our worries
Move on from our distrust
Move on from our resentment
Move on from our loss
Move on from our betrayal
Move on from our hurt
Move on from our disappointment
Move on from our anger
Move on from our ________________________
For my son, he needs to take a step into the waters of faith for his future. I cannot do it for him. Let us remember that each of the Israelites took their own, individual steps of faith – even as they did it together. Each person was responsible for his/her own movement.
What can I do for my son?
I can pray for him. I can listen to him. I can encourage him. I can love him.
I can do the same for you, too.
Let’s move on together – beyond what wakes us up in the middle of the night. There is so much wonder to be found once the seas are parted and God’s glory and blessings are revealed.
With love to you as you go forward and maybe even start a new journey in this new year!
It takes one step….