One of my brothers used to live on a farm, and one summer he asked if I could help him bale the hay. It was all cut and ready to bale when a little dark cloud appeared on the horizon.
The weather forecast didn't call for rain, so we weren't concerned ... and then it rained for one week straight. The hay turned black, and we helplessly watched thousands of dollars rot before our eyes.
How did my brother respond? I'll never forget it. He said with sincerity, "Paul, that's the glory of God."
If you have siblings, you know that they're far from perfect! No one in the Tripp family is a grace graduate, but in this moment, my brother believed by faith in a biblical principle that changed the way he responded to life:
Obstacles in life are not in the way of God's glorious plan; they are part of God's glorious plan.
One of my favorite stories about an obstacle is when the Israelites needed to cross the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit.
This was more than a mere bump in the road on the way to the Promised Land. It was life or death ... or maybe more accurately, death or death: die by drowning, or die by the sword.
From this story, and others like it, there are three things that we can learn about how to respond to the obstacles we face in life:
1. Accept that obstacles are part of life.
Scripture is explicitly clear that we will face trials of various kinds. We shouldn't be surprised when God sticks to his word and refines us through difficulty.
2. Faithfully follow the commands of God.
When obstacles appear, it's impossible not to react. But instead of reacting with frantic fear, we should react with calm obedience, following the Lord's revealed commands.
3. Wait for divine intervention.
Divine intervention simply means entrusting God to do what only God can do. The foundation of the Christian faith is dethroning ourselves and resting in the King who sits enthroned above heaven and earth.
I don't know about you, but those aren't my natural responses when obstacles appear! I'm often surprised, confused, afraid, frantic, brash and impatient.
So were the Israelites. When they saw the Egyptians closing in, they lost all composure. God had every right to turn his back on his children, but he never left them and intervened in the most miraculous of ways.
Your Father will do the same with you. He'll send obstacles, and when you respond poorly, he'll joyfully forgive and patiently endure as the obstacle produces spiritual maturity.
Now that's a glorious plan!
- What obstacles are you facing now, or what obstacle did you face recently?
- How are you responding, or how did you respond, to that obstacle? Was it motivated more by fear than by faith?
- How has God intervened in your life in the past? How should this past intervention give you present faith?
- Who do you know who is currently facing obstacles? How can you encourage them this week with the story of the Red Sea, or another biblical verse or narrative?