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Hope & Encouragement

When You’ve Lost Sight of Hope

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

One of the most talked about moments in the Old Testament is the story of the Israelites at the Red Sea. It’s a miracle that invokes a spectacular visual with what feels like a justified ending. Yet for all of the times I have heard or written about this moment, it has not felt more relevant than it does today. Recently, I heard a preacher talk about this story. He used the Red Sea as a lesson to convey the idea that God brings us to spaces where we will experience trials that refine our faith. In theory, I think some people can align with this concept. In reality, I think most find it a bit overwhelming, and dare I say even a little cruel. To experience the fiery trials is one set of emotions, but to be brought to them brings about something much different.

God’s Declaration Before the Red Sea

In the case of the Israelites, we learn that God conveyed a plan to Moses that would put the Israelites in the direct path of Pharaoh’s army after their escape from Egypt. In Exodus 14:2-4, God told Moses:

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.

In theory, this seemed like a good idea. The Israelites trusted God, and they trusted Moses – so they complied. What happens next is exactly what God said would happen. Pharoah’s heart hardens and he chases after the Israelites. Eventually, they see Pharoah’s army, which lets us know that the Egyptians are getting closer. Now, this is where life gets tricky. If we go back and look at verses 2-4, we realize that the Israelites have no detail as to what it means when God says He will be honored once Pharaoh’s army is chasing after them. We also know that this message came through Moses, and if my life feels in jeopardy, having a message come through someone else might start to feel a bit risky.

Hope Removed

Yet because we know for certain that God is with the Israelites – many would respond and say this is the time to have faith. What God said would happen with Pharaoh is happening, and don’t forget – you were delivered from bondage. So be strong and God will see you through. Again, in theory, this feels quite motivating – but we don’t live in theories. We live in realities, and in real life when we are experiencing roadblocks on every side, doubt might feel like the right choice. Not because we don’t trust God, but because we don’t trust ourselves. Neither do we trust the relationships we’ve developed with God, so our decisions come into question.

We begin to wonder – have I really heard the voice of God? Am I on the right path? What if I’m wrong. What if I mistook my own voice for His? Is God trying to tell me that this is the time that He will say no? Is this the end of the road for me? And thus, the spiral begins. Emotional turmoil kicks in and our ability to see clearly starts to fade. We don’t know how to move forward, because in some situations, there is nowhere to go. We’re sitting in darkness, and darkness is consuming.  And as difficult as that may sound, it is our red seas take these emotions one step further.

But What is a Red Sea Experience?

You see, the Red Sea is not a Job moment where life is normal, and then what you love is taken away unexpectedly. This isn’t like Daniel and the Lion’s Den, where you have been set up and wrongfully punished. The Israelites weren’t being asked to take a stand for what is right, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Instead, the Red Sea is a situation about experiencing hope, and feeling as though that hope has been taken away. And how do you trust your choices when hope no longer seems like an option?

Going Into the Darkness

The Israelites thought they were experiencing God’s blessings, and they were – but then something happened. Circumstances appeared to become dark, and it doesn’t matter if you were warned that it would get dark. We still have to live through it and find a way to believe that there will be light again. Yet this can be a challenging ask because even when we know God is present, we don’t always know His end game.  Remember, God never explicitly said that the Israelites would be rescued. He said – He would be honored, and again… what does that even mean?

There were so many emotions that the Israelites must have been feeling. Some we know… others we assume. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to acknowledge these emotions because we still feel them today. Just like with the Israelites, there is something difficult about feeling as though you are making progress only to find that progress has new challenges. It takes divine strength to walk down a path that God has assigned for you, only to be met with some of your deepest and darkest fears. In these moments, God calls us to rise to occasion, but the truth is that sometimes, we also break.

The Irony of Hope

Sometimes fear and disappointment swallow us whole. The mental exhaustion takes its toll. Even when the sermons stir hope, our realities find a way to push back. For example, with the Israelites, I believe that it was seeing Pharaoh’s army that pushed them into the seas of doubt even though they would have to see Pharaoh’s army for them to know that God’s prophecy was true.

This is the irony of hope. We believe that hope is what creates light and clarity, when hope is actually what allows us to sit in the darkness. Hope gives us the strength to believe in God’s power when life’s circumstances would tell us that we’re out of options. In hope, we recognize that the obstacles in front of us do not necessarily mean we’re on the wrong track. Disappointment and fear do not dictate the end of a story.

Romans 5:5 tells us: Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Hope can’t disappoint because hope always gives us access to the throne of God. If we understand this concept, then we understand why the devil would attack our hope. He wants to break a lifeline that connects us with God. And so to strengthen us, God allows us to go through experiences that teach us how to remain connected when life says that we’ve taken a wrong turn. God will not bring us to anything He will not see us through. So keep your hope alive…no matter how small because with God, it always becomes so bright. #GodBless #LovesAnAction

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