As a little girl, I remember listening to the story of the Israelites wandering through the desert and being completely baffled, slightly amused, and incredibly frustrated at how they had had so much trouble trusting God when He had proven Himself to them so many times before. The Israelites had witnessed the devastation the ten plagues had wreaked upon their enemies. They had been delivered through the miraculous parting the Red Sea. They had experienced the profound graciousness and care of God as He provided manna from Heaven for them when they were hungry.
And yet, met with every new challenge, the Israelites constantly doubted God’s ability to save and provide for them— they doubted His faithfulness. In times of trouble, they were forgetful and fearful; and consequently, when we read about them today, they appear foolish because we know how their story ends. The Israelites, despite all of their doubt, are delivered to the Promised Land. And so, we smile knowingly to ourselves as we wait for them to figure out what we have already seen— God has got everything under control; the story is not over until He says it is.
We tend to distance ourselves from these types of storylines in the Bible, when people’s faith fails them. Instead, we look on as removed spectators critiquing the mistakes made. It is much easier for us to read ourselves into the “success stories” of the Bible— the believers who were unwavering in the face of adversity. We identify with David when he battled Goliath, with Abraham when he was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, with Peter when he walked out on the water in faith to Jesus. The faith of a small boy against a giant who was the champion warrior of the enemy, the faith of an old man with a knife raised in the air prepared to slaughter his only child, the faith of a fisherman who forsook his boat in the midst of a storm and walked on water — this is the faith we desire so badly. But if we didn’t know how these stories ended, would we be so confident?
I am ashamed, at times, at my own lack of faith, even in the small things. It was only a couple of weeks ago I was crying angrily to God because it looked like I wasn’t going to get the job I had applied for— Why do You always do this to me? Why do You always get my hopes up to let me down? I prayed about this to You. I trusted this to You. How can I ever trust You if You never answer me? That night I got an email confirming that I had gotten the job. Imagine if someone was reading your story. How many times would she be smiling, knowingly to herself, waiting for you to learn what she already sees? Your story is not over. God is at work.
In our lives, we have as much perspective as the people in the Bible had, and often, we are not the “success stories”— we are the Israelites. Despite all of God’s faithfulness, we forget all of it when any new obstacle comes. But here’s the beautiful thing— this does not surprise God.
I am living the story of God’s people, a story as predictable as the grumbling of the Israelites in the desert. I am a faithless, broken sinner who is loved by a faithful, loving, and completely whole God. When I cry angrily like a child, God does not put me on the time-out bench. He cradles my tear-stained, red face in His hands and whispers that he loves me, that I am never alone, and that no matter how many times it takes, He will prove His love to me. He will deliver His people from the hands of the Egyptians. He will bring me through the desert.
He will lead me safely to the Promised Land. His good works will be accomplished through me no matter how broken I am, no matter how reluctant. And for all the many times you will doubt, for all the many times you will wander from the pasture like a lost sheep, Christ will pursue you and prove to you, time and time again his amazing love and faithfulness. So try your best to have faith through the storm, but know that Christ has enough faith for you when you lack it, and when you stop being able to walk out on the water to meet Jesus, Jesus will walk to you.
By: Kelsey Hope Millar