The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

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.

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.

Read the rest here.

Rest for the weary

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

—Matthew 11:28-30, NASB

Depressed and Thankful: 6 Ways to Find Joy

How can we possibly be thankful when we are depressed? And how can we be joyful when there is so much in our world to be depressed about these days? This kind of depression is different from clinical depression, which is a constant sense of hopelessness and despair, and it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. I don’t think it matters what type of depression we have, it still makes life difficult. Today’s post about how to hold on to our joy during times of depression is from Revive Our Hearts. I pray it blesses all of us.

Depressed and Thankful:
6 Ways to Find Joy

By Stacy Reaoch

It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.

The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months—college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job—and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.

Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals, medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.

Worship Grows in Gratitude

In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.

Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and “did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?”

Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We live in a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.

Read the rest here.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.

Underneath the Everlasting Arms

Underneath the Everlasting Arms

The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
—Deuteronomy 3:27

What is your trust level with God? Do you just give lip service to the word “trust” or do you really mean it when you say you trust Him?

Here in the southwest, the summers always bring a danger of wildfires. I can choose to live in fear that the next fire will be close to where I live or I can trust that if that happens, God will take care of me and my family.

Some people have a real fear of flying and avoid it at all costs. I knew a woman who refused to fly anywhere—until her grandchildren moved over 3,000 miles away. She realized then that she had to put her fears aside and trust God to keep her safe on the flights there and back. After her vacation was over, she said that she still did not like to fly, but at least she finally gave it a try and said she would do it again for the chance to see her precious grandchildren.

As we experienced all over this country last year in unimaginably big ways, people faced various weather calamities: fires, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, blinding rain and thunderstorms, flooding, or dense fog. There is no perfect place to live here on earth. No matter where we live, we are faced with a nasty weather situation sometime during the year. This is just a fact of life.

There is only one thing to do when faced with calamity or tragedy of any kind, and that is to rush to the everlasting arms of the only one who can grant us true refuge in the midst of any storm. I like to picture God holding His arms out to me when I need comforting, just as a father comforts his child. God is our ultimate Father, the one who shelters us next to Him, tucking us securely underneath His everlasting arms.

Perhaps if we keep in mind God’s protective presence in our lives, we’ll be more apt to stay close to His side and lean on Him always—not just when there is nowhere else to turn. Our only true refuge is God, the only one in whom we can put our complete trust.

Take Refuge in the Lord

Psalm 5

A Prayer for Guidance
To the Chief Musician. With flutes.

A Psalm of David.

Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.

2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,

My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.

3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;

In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.

4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure
 in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.

5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;

You hate all workers of iniquity.

6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood;

The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

7 But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;

In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.

8 Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies;

Make Your way straight before my face.

9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;

Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue.

10 Pronounce them guilty, O God!

Let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions,
For they have rebelled against You.

11 But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for JOY, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be JOYFUL in You.

12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;

With favor You will surround him as with a shield.


New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Divine Protector

If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
—Psalm 37:23-24

Divine Protector

By Patricia Knight

Following our son’s tonsil and adenoid surgery at age seven, one of his young friends presented him with a spider plant as a get-well gift. On the upper window frame above our son’s bed, a bracket was mounted from which to suspend the plant. It flourished in the sunshine and within months required transplanting into a larger pot.  

One night before his dad and I retired, we entered our son’s room to check on him. What a terrifying sight met us! Our son was sleeping peacefully on his back, buried in dirt. Wet, clumpy potting soil was scattered over his body. What dirty chaos!

It appeared our son sustained no bodily damage, but we awakened him to check his mental alertness. One of us gave him a midnight bath while the other vacuumed his bed and floor and changed his bed sheets. Piecing together the events, it was apparent the plant had grown too heavy for its support system. After pulling away from the wall, the heavy pot then dropped, careened off the upper shelf of the bookcase headboard, smashed the pot, and disgorged its contents directly onto our son. We gently brushed the clinging soil away from our child’s face and eyes, impressing upon us just how tragic the accident could have been. A concussion or a skull fracture may have resulted had the plant pot crashed into his head instead of the shelf, only inches away.

Once we determined our son was unhurt and alert, we viewed the scene with far less panic and much more gratitude. Decades later, whenever that memory flashes onto our mental screens, we are grateful for our son’s divine protection from injury. We thank God profusely for His miraculous deliverance.

Imagine how many times each day God oversees and protects our lives. There are instances when we are fully aware of God’s actions to shield us from catastrophes. But what of the times when we are oblivious to God’s interventions to protect us?  Often we are divinely deterred from potentially perilous scenarios before they impact our lives. “If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

Pharaoh refused to emancipate the Israelite slaves. After Moses’ repeated negotiations failed, God inflicted all of Egypt with ten increasingly horrendous plagues, while safeguarding His own people from collateral damage. God then freed the Israelites to walk away from their captors. When Pharaoh realized the ramifications of losing his entire slave workforce, he and his army pursued them. “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching toward them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10).The marchers were trapped between the expanse of the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian chariots behind. 

Only a few hours before, the Israelites had witnessed God’s mighty hand creating disaster among the Egyptians while preserving their own lives. In spite of their disbelief, God was faithful. A million or more people walked on a dry path as God divided the sea, forcing walls of water up each side of the walkway. The Egyptian army followed directly behind them on the dry Red Sea bed. Precisely when the last Hebrew reached the far shore, God returned the Red Sea to its normal configuration. The walls of water crashed down, sweeping Egyptian horses, chariots and their riders beneath the sea forever. “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” ( Exodus 14:31). They sang and praised God for His great love and mighty power, vowing to follow and fear Him in the future.

The Israelites were suddenly free of servitude for the first time in four hundred years. God had heard their cries of oppression and He responded with miraculous deliveries that only He could orchestrate. One month had passed since their exodus from Egypt and the nations’ walk through the Red Sea. Then, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt’” (Exodus 16:2-3). They reflected on the good food available in Egypt, accusing Moses of leading them into the desert to starve.

Although God had shielded and delivered His people, as soon as the immediate danger had passed, doubt and fear transformed their attitudes to bitterness. How quickly they forgot the miracles and blessings of God! Their faith was shallow; their motives selfish. How fickle we humans are! We are inclined to forsake God due to fear and complain to Him when faced with challenges. Yet, God is always faithful, protecting us and advocating for us.

Many of the trials the Israelites endured during their wilderness walk were tests God used to determine their faith. His purpose was to strengthen their trust and to draw them close to Him through unquestionable submission and obedience. But the Israelites usually opted for the path of least resistance. They found it easier to complain than obey; grumbling was effortless. Obedience requires energy and discipline. The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Being discontent with God’s will leads to unbelief.

We may resemble the ungrateful Israelites more than we care to admit. When was the last time we glorified God for specific and constant protection? When we narrowly avoid an accident, is one of our first responses to thank God for shielding us from danger? Let us praise Him for our lives of spiritual prosperity and protection!

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1). David sought safety in a cave when King Saul relentlessly pursued him. We know David wrote Psalm 57 while sequestered in a cave, but we don’t know if he viewed avian life in a nest tucked into the crevice of the rock. Perhaps as David observed a mother bird’s protective instincts shielding her offspring beneath her wings, he was inspired to write the metaphor of God’s great protection and power when He shelters us, unencumbered from the perils of this world. The bird and her hatchlings may have provided the object lesson, illustrating God’s protective character.

God grants strength during trials,
not immunity that spares them from happening,
so that His glory and splendor are exalted by our worship.
In His shielding sanctuary, our Lord is our refuge and fortress.
Snuggle beneath God’s protective wings in your time of need.
What a privilege, to be sheltered by the sovereign hand of God!