“But God led the people about, by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea: and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.”
Two things we know of the Israelite people is that they spent a lot of time in the desert wilderness being led by Moses at the direction of the Lord, and we know they spent much time being anxious about many things they encountered along the journey. Through much of their anxiety they certainly questioned Moses their leader, and even began to question their God. Anxiety tends to bring to the surface of our faith the weaknesses that need to be addressed. Anxiety literally means a fear or nervousness about events, circumstances, or unknown things that might happen. It is an “anticipatory” emotion that can consume massive amounts of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy if not kept in check. The Israelite's wilderness journey began by way of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. That would cause me to become a little bit anxious - a raging sea in front of me and a massive army closing in behind me. But God had promised to protect His people, and we know from scripture He parted that raging sea allowing His people to cross, followed by His closing of the sea which engulfed and destroyed the entire massive army of Egyptians. God delivered!
Now having spent many days in the wilderness, the people were anxious because their water supply was bitter, but God made it sweet (Exodus 15). God delivered! Continuing their journey into the wilderness the people were hungry with little to eat and began to complain, yet the Lord rained down bread from heaven with specific instructions for partaking of His provision each day (Exodus 16). God delivered! Having journeyed a farther distance from their first water source, the people again became thirsty, complaining to Moses and were almost ready to stone him. Therefore, he prayed to the Lord and God once again provided water for the people of Israel to drink in the desert. Along each stage of their journey, God met their needs despite their anxiety, despite their complaining and discontentment, the Lord remained faithful because He had complete knowledge of their destination. In his book, The Anxious Christian, Rhett Smith comments on this journey of the Israelites with its similarities to ours, and how God uses each stage for a purpose:
Exodus 17:1 continually reminds me that we are people in the wilderness. There is just no way around it. The reality of life is that we are constantly moving from one big transition to another. At moments we experience a respite from the journey, but that doesn’t alter the fact that life is rooted in the wilderness experience of continuous transition and choice. One of the reasons we experience anxiety is that God is persistently trying to move us through the wilderness, because it is in that wilderness that we are most dependent upon Him. It is in that wilderness experience that God shapes us into the people He desires us to become. (pg.45)
Today, what is God trying to move you toward through the anxious moments in the wilderness of your journey? What is it in your life today that appears to be an obstacle causing anxiety, that God can actually use as an opportunity to draw you closer to Himself? God can use even our deepest struggles with anxiety, depression, or life’s everyday struggles to mold and shape us into the unique individuals He’s calling us to become? Remember today that God is with us in the Wilderness of our Anxiety.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this day You have made, let us find true joy and delight in You even as we find ourselves in seasons or circumstances which seem like we’re walking in a wilderness. Lord, remind us that You are ever-present, always with us on this journey promising to never leave us, especially when we experience anxiety often driven by both uncertainty of the future and what may appear to be insurmountable obstacles in our path. May we gain assurance to press on from the countless examples of Your presence and provision for Your people found in scripture. Father, give us spiritual eyes to see what You are desiring to accomplish within us even through our anxieties. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.