The Red Sea in Front of Me

Reaching for God in Despair

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

“God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.”

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

See God’s Leading

Your circumstances are no cosmic accident. You may have taken a wrong turn. There may be consequences for decisions in our lives. But in many cases there was no wrong turn. And in any case, God has brought you to the place he has us for reasons beyond what you may be able to see at this point. As he was with the Israelites, God is intentional in all that he does (Exodus 13:17–18).

God is with you, leading you.

Though there may have been easier routes that would make more sense in our eyes, God chose this path to accomplish his good purposes in our lives: to show us more of himself, to change our hearts in ways other circumstances wouldn’t have, and to reveal his glory to us and to those around us. Let’s not be so focused on the route we wish we were on, that we miss what God is doing on the one he has chosen for us.

Stand Firm and Wait Expectantly

Scripture explains a threefold redemption for God’s children — past, present, and future. Our God is a God who has saved, who is saving, and who will save again. In his present and future redemptive works in our lives we stand firm when real dangers threaten us.

“God has brought you to the place he has for reasons beyond what you may be able to see at this point.”

We actively and constantly fix our eyes on God’s promises — even when we are struggling to believe them. We fight against fear with truth. We resist numbing ourselves with worthless distractions to avoid facing how helpless we feel. We stay in community with God’s people, allowing them to minister truth and the comfort of their presence and prayers. We look the seemingly hopeless circumstances in the face and ask the Lord to anchor us in the truth that he will have the last word — rather than giving way to our emotions and fears.

In this hope we fight against the temptation to jump into the sea and drown ourselves in the emptiness of anger, resentment, bitterness, hopelessness, numbing activities, or sinful indulgences.

Trust in Future Salvation

In Christ we have been saved eternally and in his strength we await future acts of redemption from the Red Sea dead-ends we face in our lives. So, we must choose to trust and rest in the very place that God has us, waiting expectantly to see how he will show himself faithful. When we falter, lose our bearings, and try to fall back on our own strength, we can trust our Savior’s grace to strengthen our weak knees, forgive our wandering hearts, and teach us to rest in his saving arms.

Always, we must view our circumstances through the lens of the gospel and the eternal joy that awaits us. Ultimately, if we are in Christ, we can press on in the firm hope that we will one day be freed from this world and all of its troubles. Eternal salvation for those who believe has already been accomplished on the cross.

“Let’s not be so focused on the route we wish we were on that we miss what God is doing on the one he has chosen.”

Therefore, we must be on guard that we don’t fall victim to the false doctrine that if we just believe, Jesus will save our loved one from cancer, give us the job we are vying for, and provide the financial comfort we have worked so hard for.

Rather, he may choose to part the waters by changing our hardened and self-reliant heart into a softened, joy-filled, Christ-exalting one. He may use our enduring faith to bring many to Christ and encourage other believers. And yes, he may choose (for his purposes and glory) to provide a way out of dire or unwanted circumstances, or miraculously heal us or a loved one.

Plant a Stone of Remembrance

Either way, he promises to provide what we need (though not always what we think we need) and we can trust that he will be faithful to his word. Praise God that salvation will arrive, whether on this earth or in the one to come. But we must be careful that we aren’t so focused on our desired outcome that we miss the ways God is working and providing in our lives right here and now.

Look at what he has done and put a stone of remembrance in the sand — one that will always remind you of his faithfulness in the days that lie ahead.