Decades ago, I found myself in a very oppressive job. I had been brought in to develop a marriage and family ministry in the church. I had been in a similar position in a church in New England and wanted to move closer to my roots in Colorado. Someone had heard about what I had done back east and began to inquire of my interest in moving to Arizona to develop the same kind of ministry in their church. Long story short, I moved with my family and began to build the ministry of reaching out to the needs of marriage and family.
I didn’t realize when I moved that very destructive relational interactions existed in the church staff. Unhealthy communication. Loyalty issues. Power plays. Large egos. Staff on probation. I had no idea of the environment I was moving into. I also didn’t realize that soon after I arrived, my conversations with my immediate boss were being taped and given to the senior pastor. Long story short, I decided after 1 year and three months that I had had enough. I gave the church my resignation and left the church. It was a great day of relief-relief from being under such scrutiny. I had freedom to make my decisions of what I wanted to do without being questioned. I was walking out boldly from that experience as I looked forward toward my future. My boldness lasted only a couple of days until I looked at what I was going to do. My future? Making a living? Doing what? These questions caused real terror as I focused on the future.
I was reminded of this experience when I read from Exodus today. A little backdrop. Israel had been under bondage for many years (430) from the Egyptians. Joseph was a Jew that was put in charge of the 7 years of famine Egypt endured after 7 years of plenty. During the famine, Joseph’s brothers and Dad came down to be provided for with food and a place to live (Genesis 39-50) Once Joseph died the bondage happened and they finally began to cry out to the Lord. God heard their cry and sent Moses to be their deliverer, using various plagues (Exodus 1-13) to get Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to let them go. As I read about the Exodus, I came across the phrase, “. . .Marching out boldly.” (Exodus 14:8) The Israelites had been in bondage for 430 years. The longer the bondage, the harder it became. No relief. No home. Slaves. No freedom. Oppressed. Depressed. All of the above and more. But when they were released by Pharaoh, they marched out boldly and were free from being a slave after 430 years. I can somewhat understand what they were feeling.
Unfortunately, in the next paragraph, a different feeling emerged. Pharaoh had a change of heart because of releasing all these slaves that had been at his beckon-call. He with his soldiers took out after them. “As Pharaoh approached , the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified, and cried out to the Lord.” (Exodus 14:10) They had just been experiencing boldness and two verses later, they are terrified. I understand that feeling.
Their focus was on their circumstances and not on the God who brought many plagues on the Egyptian people that forced Pharaoh to let them go. Circumstances do change on a daily basis, let alone a moment to moment basis. When our focus is on our circumstances, our life will resemble a roller coaster. Boldness to being terrified. We choose where to put our focus.
On this journey there have been and will be plenty of ups and downs in life. Focusing on the only stable One in life will take us off the roller coaster of emotions. The choice in the midst of varying circumstances will determine our daily ride. Choose wisely.