I recently received a heart breaking email from a single mom. She read my blog (How to climb a mountain) and began to tell me about her particular mountain and how difficult the climb has been. She is struggling vocationally and as a result, financially and is trying to figure out where God is in the midst of her ascent. Her mountain is big and she’s tired of climbing. She works constantly, cares for her child, maintains a house and goes to bed exhausted every night. She sees very little light at the end of the tunnel. Most days, it just looks like an oncoming train. Sound familiar?
I relate to her struggle. The last three years have been the hardest of my life. In fact, it seems like everyone I talk to these days is hurting on some level. Maybe because of my life circumstances I am around more hurting people? Or maybe we just live in a hurting world and some of us are more honest about the pain than others. Some of us are hurting from self-inflicted wounds. Others are hurting as a result of the decisions of others. Though the reason we hurt may be different, the pain is still the same. The mountain just keeps growing bigger and your legs just get more tired of climbing. It feels like the movie, Groundhog Day. You wonder, when will this day or struggle ever end?
It reminds me of the story of the woman on the donkey:
One day a woman mounted a donkey and began to ride. Within seconds, the donkey kicked her off to the ground. She got up, brushed herself off and mounted again. Within seconds, the donkey kicked her off again. She repeated this again with the same result. Finally, in frustration, she raised a fist to heaven and shouted, “Why do You keep doing this to me??” Surprised, she heard a loud voice respond, “I do this to all My friends.” She replied, “And that is why You have so few friends!”
My friend wonders why God is allowing her such a struggle. She loves God, goes to church and doesn’t rob banks or kill anyone – isn’t that worth something? Daily she wonders how long she must continue to struggle before life gets easier again? If you’re honest, you have probably thought the same thing. King David asked the same question in Psalm 13. You can hear the tone of his desperation through each word he penned, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Even the martyrs in Heaven, those killed on earth for their faith, ask the same question in Revelation 6, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” From the depths of earth to the heights of heaven, everyone seems to be asking the same question – HOW LONG until my situation changes? How long until God acts on my behalf?? Everyone else seems blessed, when is it my turn?
Moses understands the frustration of dealing with a slow motion God. Having been called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses finds himself battling against the most powerful ruler in the world, Pharaoh. After watching God perform ten amazing miracles (Exodus 7-11) and bring Pharaoh to his knees, Moses finds himself on the verge of national freedom. For the first time in over 400 years, God’s people would no longer be slaves. On the night before their “exodus” into Canaan, God has them first camp “in Etham on the edge of the wilderness.” (Exodus 13:20). Then, He orders them to “encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea..” (Exodus 14:2) In what seems to be an intentionally irrational move, God has them pitch their tents with the Red sea on one side and the mountain range on the other.
As Egypt’s army approaches, Pharaoh realizes the tactical “mistake” of Israel and weighs in on God’s confusing maneuver, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.”
Does that sum up life for you right now? Are you dealing with a slow motion God? Wondering why it’s taking Him so long to act on your behalf? Questioning why He does what He does? Can’t figure out why His timing is so off? Feel like you are wandering aimlessly in a desert? Wondering how much longer you can survive in your worn down and vulnerable position?
Militaristically speaking, Moses couldn’t be in any worse of a location. Literally, the Israelite’s have no chance of escape and are completely trapped and out-gunned by the powerful Egyptian army. With the Red Sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other, they are simply out of room, time and options. Can you relate to that feeling? How long till God finally does something about this?
If you are familiar with the story (Exodus 14), you know that God (through Moses) parted the Red Sea. The Israelites walked across on dry ground and when Pharaoh’s army tried to follow, the sea collapsed upon them and delivered a fatal blow to the Egyptian military. Though it seemed that God was too late, it turns out – He wasn’t late at all. He was just working on His own timetable.
We may never understand why He calls us to wander in a desert. Or why He asks us to stick with a job. Or a spouse. We may never know why He asks us to take the scenic route of life when the highway makes so much more sense. Why do it His way when my way is so much quicker?
God can appear to move slow – but it is only slow on a human clock. As He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
The truth is, we live in a different world than God. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, God lives in another galaxy altogether. He thinks differently. He acts differently. We prefer the speed of microwave food. God cooks over an open flame. We like to drive fast. God prefers to walk. We are all about getting to our destination. God is all about the journey. We watch the clock. God watches the heart. We want to get to the end result. God likes to focus on the process.
We do live in a fast paced world. But God is often a slow motion God. Though He can create a planet in one day, He often takes His time when building some character. Though He can instantly heal a blind man with one word, He prefers to heal a human heart over time.
The next time you wonder “How long?” – remember this… you’re in good company.
- Noah spent over 100 years building the Ark. (He had never seen a flood before).
- Abraham spent 25 years waiting for God to provide the “child of promise.” (For someone who desires a child, that’s an eternity to wait!)
- Joseph was in prison for over 2 years waiting for those he helped to remember he was there. (His crime? Doing the right thing.)
- Moses spent 80 years wandering in a desert. (No air conditioning. No books to read. No wi-fi.)
- The longest night of Daniel’s life was spent in a lion’s den. (Why was he there? Because he prayed.)
- David was anointed as the King of Israel as a teenager. It would be years later before he would actually wear the crown. In the interim, he spent most of his time as a fugitive literally running for his life. (No wonder He kept asking God “How long?”)
- Even Jesus asked God “Why?” while hanging on the cross.
God likes to put His children in a position where He is the only possible solution. If Israel could have fought their way out, Israel would have bragged that they delivered themselves. If Moses could have delivered His people, then Moses would have been hailed as the hero. God doesn’t play like that. He doesn’t share His glory with others.
“That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses his servant.” – Exodus 14:30
Waiting on God? Get used to it. He’s shaping you for a greater work. You will be there longer than you want, that’s for sure. But know this – He hasn’t forgotten you or your cries for help. He’s just not done His work in you yet.
He doesn’t need more time – you do.