When all you have is your faith in God, that’s a hard place to be.  But it’s okay.  God is there, whether you can feel him or see him or recognize his hand at work in your life.  He’s there even when you think he couldn’t possibly be.  He’s there even when you’re certain that it’s hopeless and nothing can ever be okay ever again. 

Many of the biblical characters faced that moment of despair, even as they were doing precisely what they knew God wanted them to be doing.  Had you supposed that that knowing God’s will and doing it is the inoculation against feeling discouraged and unhappy?  Don’t be silly.

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Moses met God in a burning bush and reluctantly obeyed his command to go back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites from hundreds of years of slavery.  Few people have ever known so clearly what God’s will for their lives was.

            And yet it was hard for him to feel happy.  He was at least eighty years of age.  His wife did not support him. Moses believed himself to be a poor public speaker and had attempted to use that as an excuse to get out of having to go to Egypt—a place he’d left forty years earlier as a fugitive after murdering someone.

            When he arrived in Egypt, he had an audience with the Pharaoh. He performed the miraculous “signs” that God had given him.  He threw his staff on the ground so that it became a snake. He put his hand in his tunic and pulled it out covered with leprosy, then made the leprosy go away.

The Pharaoh was unimpressed and chased Moses away.  He refused to set the Israelites free and accused them of laziness.  Worse, he gave them more work to do, making their already miserable lives as slaves even more unbearable.  


Moses did what God asked him to do.  Nothing worked.  In fact, life got worse. The Pharaoh was mad at him, and so were the people he had ostensibly come to set free.  Certainly not an auspicious beginning to his mission.

            He complained to God about what had happened.  Did God zap him with a bolt of lightning for his lack of faith?  Nope.  God comforted him and told him to keep at it, that in the end, it would all work out.

            So Moses asked again.  And again.  And again. The Pharaoh repeatedly denied the request.  Months, perhaps a year or more passed with zero progress.  Terrible plagues befell the Egyptians.  Finally, after the tenth try, the Pharaoh let the people go.  So now all was well, right?

            As soon as the Israelites left, the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent an army to bring them back.  They fled—only to find their way blocked by the Red Sea with no way out—until God opened the sea and destroyed the Pharaoh’s army.

            Then there was a shortage of food, a shortage of water. When there was food, the people complained about the lack of variety. There were challenges to Moses’ leadership; the people resorted to idolatry. There were plagues, and then when they got to the Promised Land the people refused to go into it—so God sent them to wandering in the wilderness for forty years until everyone of that generation died from old age.

            Nothing went the way Moses had expected or hoped.  Both he and the Israelites spent a lot of time getting familiar with despair.

And Moses was not the only biblical figure who spent a lot of time in the dark place.  The Prophet Habakkuk expressed the same unhappiness. After hoping that God would do something to fix the nation of Israel’s penchant for idolatry, God explained that his “solution” was to have Babylonians invade and devastate the land.  Habakkuk responded with stress and unhappiness, unsatisfied by God’s promise that the Babylonians would subsequently be judged. 

Habakkuk concludes his prophecy with a poem for when nothing is going right, everything is going wrong, and nothing about your circumstances makes sense:

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

And finally: when the prophet Daniel's friends faced death in a fiery furnace they told Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the following:

“…the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)

Trusting in God, remaining faithful to God and his calling, is not dependent upon His action or inaction.  If it is, then we cannot claim honestly to love Him, because love, real love, is not dependent upon the actions of the beloved.

Of course, this is easier said, than done.

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