sunrise over a road
Anxiety,  Bible Study,  Lifestyle

Wondering Where God is? Try Turning Around

Lately God has surrounded me with new ideas about writing with him. I’ve started holding business meetings with God every morning before I start writing. I want to go in whatever direction he needs for me to go.

I admit to you what I hear from him isn’t always what I expect. I’m about to launch a website where one third of my fiction books will be given away for free. But for months he’s put this idea into my head over and over again, so I’m taking the steps to do it.

What I haven’t experienced in a while is a sense of silence, but I sure have in the past. Have you ever had a season where you talk to God and feel like you’re getting nothing from him? I’ve had times where I practically beg him to show me what to do and where to go, but the path before me remains dark and uncertain, and I’m afraid to take a step because I can’t see the ground in front of me.

A journey of lessons

God brought me to Exodus the other day, Exodus 13-16 where the 40-year journey begins. It’s a story I love, and yet this time, God piled on the lessons. Oh my! I saw lessons about free books in the manna story. I thought about a simple shepherd who is asked to do something completely out of character, and how God paves the way.

Then let’s talk about being still while God takes out enemies. Do any of the rest of you feel like our culture is filled with God’s enemies, people who hate us for our desire to go into the wilderness and worship? Moses told the people to be still. Not to fight, not to panic, but to trust God.

I love that.

Fiery pillars

What surprised me was Exodus 13:21-22. I’d seen it before, but I’d never seen it before. Listen to this:

 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

The pillars didn’t leave, and they were always in the front. The exception to this was when Pharaoh’s army chased them. Then the pillar moved behind them so the army couldn’t see them. Pharaoh saw darkness from his side, but the Israelites saw light from their side, light that helped them cross a dry sea bed.

The pillars of cloud and fire were always there. Always. Daytime. Nighttime. In times of peace and in times of danger. The pillars showed the way, so they were guides. At least once Moses says God looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud (14:24). And once we’re told the pillar followed the angel of the LORD, when he moved behind the Israelites to protect them from Pharoah.

The Israelites didn’t just get pillars. They got God himself. God guided them, and he did it clearly.

Clouds and sun in the sky

The pillars don’t hide

So what’s with those moments God feels far away, when I don’t see the pillars in front of me? Maybe it has nothing to do with God. Maybe it’s all me. If God is in the front leading me, and I don’t see him, I might not be facing front. Maybe I need to turn around. Am I trying to forge my own path, hoping he will bless it and get ahead on the road I want lit?

When the Israelites saw Pharoah coming, they cried out to Moses, who cried out to God. God says Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. (14:15) He says this seconds before he tells Moses to use his staff to part the water. They were told to move before the next step was completely clear. But they had seen the pillar ahead. They’d watched the pillar move around to the other side to protect them while they fled. The path was clear, and they understood its guidance; it just didn’t make sense. The path led to a sea.

Funny that after being led by a fiery cloud, they thought a sea was too big an obstacle. I’m sure I’d have felt the same, but it’s funny that God’s mighty works in one way don’t always lead us to expect his mighty works in another.

Sure, he can send a pillar of cloud. Or a swarm of locusts or days of darkness. That’s not a sea. We see it with Jesus, too. Hours after he fed five thousand people in a pretty miraculous way, his disciples were shocked that he could walk on water. Our belief in one amazing thing doesn’t always lead us to believe another.

God was patient with Israel. He kept lighting their way for years. He stayed in front, and when they turned their eyes in that direction and followed, things went well for them. When they looked away, they didn’t do so well.

When the pillar pivots

I’ve had to turn around a few times lately, because God has shifted the path, and he’s no longer ahead of me. Instead, he’s asked me to pivot. Pivots don’t have to be hard, because he’s always in front. Just watch for him. And if he does move behind but asks you to keep going forward, know for sure that he’s protecting you. He’ll make that clear, too. Seas will part. Ways will open.

He wants us to keep moving, so we trust that each time we pick up a foot, he’ll give us a safe place to put it back down.

The trick is not to take your eyes off God. He doesn’t disappear. And if he does, take a deep breath and start to spin. You’ll find he’s still there, leading, protecting, and always guiding. You simply need to watch his steps and follow his moves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *