“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery…” (Exodus 6:9)
Two months ago, I switched positions at work – moving from a direct care position to an administrative role. I never imagined myself working a typical Monday thru Friday desk job, but I suppose stranger things have happened; I know better than to try to make plans for the future! For so long, I considered purpose and vocation to always be cut from the same cloth, so to cease a role that allowed me to directly walk out my calling left me feeling like a fish out of water. In other words, God oh-so-lovingly revealed my misplacement of identity – placing my worth in my work rather than my place in His family.
However, as nice and cliche as all of that sounds, living it has been brutal. When you realize that that the thing that gave you a sense of purpose is actually destroying you, because you’re unintentionally demanding it to fill a need, the undoing is messy. It leaves you feeling empty, lost, dazed and confused. Taking the Lord at His word and stepping into His will sounds nice, but is often clumsy and unsteady when executed.
How do you cope when the direction of the Lord seems to be causing more harm than good?
Once again, reading through Moses and the Israelites’ story unveils the deeper root issue. When Moses returned to Egypt upon receiving the call of God to lead His people out of bondage, he reluctantly agreed. When Moses told the elders of Israel about God’s plans for them, they received the news with joy and deep reverence; hope that had been buried for hundreds of years was cracking through the dusty ground once again (Ex. 4:31).
Moses and his brother, Aaron, walked in confidence to the throne of Pharaoh, but were not met with the victory they anticipated. Pharaoh decided that his slaves had too much time on their hands and were concocting schemes of revolt, so he decided to make things even more difficult. One of the primary tasks of the Hebrew slaves was the make bricks out of straw that the Egyptian taskmasters would collect and provide for the slaves. Because of the audacity of Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh told the Egyptian taskmasters to stop gathering straw for the slaves; from now on, the Hebrews had to gather their own straw to make bricks. The catch, however, was that the number of bricks produced each day could not be reduced even though their work load became heavier (Ex. 5:8). The Hebrews were now being treated worse than before.
How is this adversity possibly in alignment with God’s plan?
The leaders in Israel met with Moses and Aaron and told them all about these new policies. Moses cried out to the Lord, desperate for an answer; this was not what he had in mind when God called him to usher in freedom! Moses had now made things even worse for his people, and they were even further from freedom! God, however, reassured Moses and reminded him of their conversation at the burning bush; God reminded him of who He was and the plans that He had (Ex. 6:7).
Because of their pain, the Hebrews did not listen or trust what Moses had to say (Ex. 6:9). They were so confused and hurt that they would not allow hope to enter into their hearts. Moses had sparked a tiny flame of hope in the Hebrews’ spirits that Pharaoh quickly snuffed out.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
One of the most painful experiences to endure is disappointment and unmet expectations. When what you had desperately hoped for is met with bitter rejection, it is truly devastating. When we read about the Israelites’ broken spirit, we can deeply relate – recalling our own personal losses and decimated dreams.
When we place our hope in our circumstances, we are doomed for disappointment.
The fulfillment of the dreams given to us by our Father are going to look differently than we anticipated. This broken world is going to slap us in the face, ridicule our countercultural thinking, and label us as fools. If we are focused on our present circumstances rather than the end result promised to us by God, we will become bitter and broken in spirit like the Israelites.
Difficulty does not discount your dream.
So today, as you are working with your last piece of straw and preparing for the hardship ahead, take heart. You are seen by your Father, and His plan supersedes your present reality. When you take the step that God told you to, things will look messy and if you’re not careful, bitterness will take root in your heart and your unmet expectations will lead you to believe that God is not trustworthy.
This is not the end.
“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)