When the Israelites leave Egypt after their period of slavery, God is concerned about the mental state of his people. In Exodus chapter 13 he leads them away from the country of the Philistines which would be the shortest and most direct way to the land of Canaan. God fears that “if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt (Ex. 13:17).” As a result, he has them go south toward the Red Sea. Now you probably know the rest of the story, the Egyptians set out in pursuit and catch the Israelites at the edge of the water. The people fear for their lives and cry out to God. The pillar of cloud that had been out in front of the people now moves behind them and separates them from Pharaoh and his army.
I think about that picture regularly. The Israelites standing together with the Egyptians on one side and the Red Sea on the other side. They are trapped between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Where do you turn when you have nowhere to turn?
You know the rest of the story. Moses stretches out his hands, and God causes a strong east wind to blow and push back the water. The people walk over on dry ground to safety. The waters recede, and the army is crushed under the weight of their armor and the rushing water. Everyone is saved, and they walk away free, safe and happy.
The story inspires and encourages us, but it is easy to forget when our struggles are closing in on us. We know how the story of the Israelites ends, but we have no idea how ours reaches completion. Whenever we stand surrounded by evil on one side and hopelessness on the other, there is this feeling of defeat that overwhelms us. I am sure when Moses walked up on the rock and held out his hands declaring to the people, “Trust God,” that some of the people in the crowd laughed in disbelief. I know some of them doubted they would find a way out and felt like Moses was an optimistic fool for his faith in God amid such an impossible situation. Trusting an unseen God when all hope is lost seems like a useless venture that crazy people make.
Here is my growing belief. God puts us into moments like these so that we will learn to place our faith in him entirely. If we can find a way out on our own, then we do not need God. If our hard work and optimism can defeat the enemies, then we will never turn to God. Impossible situations are made for us to trust the one who makes all things possible.
The moment all hope is lost means only that all hope is lost in ourselves. It is in the darkest moments that the light of faith shines brightest.
If you feel like you have reached the edge of the sea and the army is closing in behind you, then you are not near destruction. Instead, you are closest to faith. God cannot open the sea for you until you realize that you need him alone. Faith grows more in struggles than in seasons in blessing. Sure, some people will call you foolish and crazy, but that is because they have not been beside the sea yet.
Keep trusting that God will show up once again. He will show you a way forward just like he did for Israel.