Hard Times on Purpose?
Since God is eternal and His characteristics are immeasurable it goes without saying that there is much I do not know about Him and much I do not understand. And I need to confess that there are times I’m uncomfortable with what He does. It doesn’t sit right. It is imponderable and unexplainable. There are times when circumstances and situations under His authority leave me unsettled.
There are times when God leads us into hard times that could have easily (for Him) have been avoided. Everyone knows you avoid The Hard whenever possible, right? Everyone knows you take the level path and avoid the hard climb, right?
I’m learning that in such puzzling hard times, it is most important to love the Lord my God with all my mind. These are times when my conflicted feelings and unsettled emotions need to get in the back seat and let my mind drive the car. We all do well to remind one another of what we know to be true about Him and His character.
God has been consistent in His unusualness and inexplicability since the first recorded accounts of His dealings with people. And those narratives are priceless to us because they help us understand His inscrutable ways. For example: Moses.
Moses was living incognito in the desert as a shepherd when God commissioned him to return to a place he was deliberately avoiding. He debated with God because he thought he wasn’t adequate for the task of leading God’s people out of slavery – and God agreed with him. And then, even as God underscored that His presence, His power, and His provision would go with Moses, He also explained that Moses would fail – multiple times because he would run into the impenetrable, stubborn heart of the king of Egypt. This was no small obstacle. We need to pause a bit to wrap our western imaginations around what it meant to defy such a powerful ruler.
Moses lost that debate with God and went back to Egypt to get God’s people, all the while knowing that “When you go back to Egypt,… I will harden his (Pharaoh) heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Ex. 4:21)
Why in the world would God put Moses in a sure-to-fail situation? Why was God going through that whole messy process when obviously He could have bypassed all that trouble and turmoil, given His limitless power and immeasurable strength?
Exodus 10:1-2 tells it plain: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”
THAT is amazing!
To think that the God who created every galaxy,
every drop of ocean water –
He wants us to know Him and be confident of His love for us!
God is patiently showing us over and over who He is. All of human history is about God revealing Himself to us – causing us to know Him, to trust Him and to be drawn into relationship with Him. That is why He painstakingly, patiently orchestrates life stories and human history to demonstrate who He is and what He offers to us.
That is why He brings us to hard times – on purpose!
After God sent the plagues to show His power over Egyptian gods and Pharaoh finally released God’s people, we are told of God’s amazing rescue of His people at the Red Sea. One part of that story is often overlooked. “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp …” Exodus 14:2-4
Wait! They were getting away and God told them to turn back?!?! They were moving away from danger and He directed them back?!?!
“For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them,” Exodus 14:3-4
Let me get this straight – God knew that Pharaoh would think they were lost and think they were at his mercy again? And not only that – God was going to make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn once again so that he could come and try to get them back? God was doing this ON PURPOSE?!?!
Why would God do this? Why would God put His people in harm’s way? Why would He lead them in circles to bring them to a place that was not defendable? Why?!?!
“and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 14:4
God wanted those who had mistreated His people to know that they were answerable to Him. We worship a God who loves justice. He interrupts evil and He extends mercy. That is His story told throughout human history.
God is not whimsical. God is not random or distracted. God is not meandering through human history.
God creates human history.
God is purposeful.
God is love.
God is mighty to save.
God rescues and redeems and restores.
God knew that after the trauma of years of enslavement and abuse His people would need to encounter something BIG to infuse hope into their hearts and minds. He didn’t just give them words. He set up these circumstances and caused them to live THROUGH the middle of a miracle. This demonstration of who He is and of the depth of His care for them was meant to saturate them with confidence in their God.
There are times when God leads us into hard times that could have easily (for Him) have been avoided. Really? Everyone knows you avoid …
Everyone knows you embrace The Hard whenever possible because in The Hard we know our God.
Take a minute to read the song of rejoicing that rang out over the Red Sea once everyone – every single one of them – was safe on the far shore.
Song of Moses – Exodus 15:1-19
And we, too, will sing that same song once we are all at home in Heaven together! (see Revelation 15:3,4) Maybe it will sound something like THIS.
Oh, Lord God, renew my perspective
so that I watch for You in the hard times,
especially when Your ways leave me wondering
and waiting … uncomfortable ….
Draw me close in The Hard
so that I know you more intimately and
love you more deeply.