Following God Even When He Isn't Moving

There’s nothing worse than being stuck.

We’ve all been there.You’re tooling along in traffic, making good progress toward your destination, when all of a sudden the cars in front of you grind to a halt. All you see is the Red Sea of taillights. Zero to 60 becomes zero to nothing, and the timely arrival you planned vanishes like snow in the South. 

Stuck in traffic is one example of being stuck, but sometimes “stuck” looks like more than a minor traffic delay. Sometimes stuck looks like a major train derailment.

Some of us are stuck in a relationship that’s going nowhere. The press of apathy, selfishness, or conflict hinders us from moving forward. Others are stuck in more noble ways—by caring for an aging parent, a sick spouse, or a needy child. Your life is on hold, and everyone but you seems to be accomplishing something noteworthy or fulfilling. Or maybe you’re stuck professionally in a job where you don’t feel challenged, and no one appreciates you.

Sometimes we’re stuck because of our own poor decisions, but other times we know the hand of God has placed us where we are. No amount of effort, ingenuity, or prayer seems to change things. We’re stuck because the Lord has hemmed us in.

The children of Israel knew what it meant to be stuck. They had escaped Egypt in a blaze of glory, marching boldly away from their captors with God as their rear guard. Through the Red Sea they went, triumphant and heady with victory. Six hundred thousand fighting men strong in addition to women and children. Bible scholars estimate between 2-3 million people may have been following Moses’ leadership. 

Then came the wilderness wanderings.

“At the command of the Lord the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. As long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped. Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not journey” (Num. 9:18-19).

Some seasons of “stuck” lasted only a few days. Then the cloud would lift, and they’d be on their way. Other seasons lasted longer—a month sometimes. Or a year.

The Israelites made many mistakes on their journey, but, with few exceptions, they did this right—they never moved until God said, “Go.”

I wish I could be more like them. Oh, how I chafe at delays that seem to hinder my progress. I grow impatient with taillights and detours. I see the exit on the horizon, and I want off. Sometimes I go rogue and drive down the emergency lane, only to find myself not only stuck, but in trouble as well.

Stuck is hard. Lack of forward motion is counter-intuitive and appears fruitless and pointless.

Thankfully God provides a wise example for us to follow in the man Moses. Moses understood what we often forget—that God works equally well in the pauses.

One day, overwhelmed by the task of leading two million people, he talked with God, "If your Presence does not go with us,” he said, “do not send us up from here” (Ex. 33:15). Moses knew wherever God was—in the going or in the staying—that’s where he wanted to be.

When God advanced, he would follow. When God stopped, he would trust. “At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by the hand of Moses” (Num. 9:23).

It’s during the stuck times that we must ask ourselves, am I willing to follow God, even when he isn’t moving? 

Are you?

Father, help me see your hand in the stopping and in the going. Help me trust that you are accomplishing your perfect will for me, even when I cannot see it. I know you can use every circumstance to make me more like Jesus. Help me not get ahead of your good plan for my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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