Thursday, January 26, 2017

When Things Go From Bad to Worse

Have you ever followed God's instructions for your life only to find that things got worse instead of better?  We're taught that obedience leads to blessing, but sometimes it doesn't really seem that way, does it?  The children of Israel understood that all too well.

In Exodus 5, God commands Moses to tell Pharoah to set His people free.  When Moses declares God's will to the people of Israel, they are thrilled that God has heard their cries for deliverance.  But when Moses obeyed God and spoke to Pharaoh, the Egyptian king refused to let the people go.  Not only that, but he also stated that the people must have too much time on their hands if they're wasting time dreaming about being rescued.  Pharaoh commanded that the people were no longer to receive straw to make their bricks, but they now had to go out and gather the straw themselves.  Plus, they were still required to make as many bricks as they had before.  When the people failed to meet the quota, they were beaten.  After a few days of this, they pleaded with Pharaoh whose response was, "You brought this on yourselves.  That's what you get for listening to God."

Well, that's not how things were supposed to go, was it?  God commanded.  Moses obeyed.  The people should have been set free, right?  But instead, their lives grew more miserable than they were before, and according to Pharoah, they had God to thank for their worsened state.  Needless to say, when Moses went back to talk to the people, they didn't want anything to do with him.  Moses understood, and he had a little chat with God.

And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all. - Exodus 5:22-23

I detect several things in Moses' tone:  frustration, confusion, and maybe even a hint of bitterness.  "Why am I even here, Lord?  Ever since I came, things have only gotten worse, and you still haven't delivered your people!  What's the deal?"

Oh, how I can relate!  I cannot tell you how many times I've followed the Lord's will only to have things turn out differently than I expected.  In fact, things go from bad to worse.  I give money to a hurting friend and overdraft on my account.  I go out of my way to help someone in need and end up missing out on an opportunity that would have furthered my ministry.  I take a class that I thought would step my writing up to the next level only to later regret spending the money.  Over and over again it has happened.  And each time, I find myself where Moses is in this passage:  "What gives, Lord?  I obeyed you.  I followed your instructions.  I gave the money, met the need or took the class, and now I'm worse off than I was before.  I thought obedience was rewarded, but it certainly doesn't seem like it from where I'm standing."

Do you detect the same frustration, confusion and even bitterness?  I don't mean to be disrespectful though it often comes across that way.  It's just that things seem so out of order.  How can obedience to God's will leave us worse off than we were before?  It doesn't make sense. . . at least, not to the human mind.  Lord willing, in the next post, we'll analyze God's response to Moses (and let me tell you, it's awesome!), but until then, let me just say this:  God has a plan even when it seems like He doesn't.  He is working even when it appears like things are spinning out of control.  And sometimes, as difficult as it is for us to swallow, things have to get worse before they can get better.  Yes, God could have set Israel free right away, but while that seems like a good plan, God had a better one--one that would take care of Egypt once and for all.

I wish I could tell you that obedience to God always makes things easier and better, but that's simply not so.  However, disobedience to God's commands will always make us miserable.  Of that, we can be certain.  So, if we're going to be miserable either way, wouldn't it be better to obey God, knowing that, in the end, everything will work out as it should?  With obedience, things might go from bad to worse, but we can be assured that they will get better.  With disobedience, the misery will never end.

Does it seem like situations in your life have gone from bad to worse?  If so, don't lose heart.  God has a plan, and He is working on your behalf.  Don't grow bitter.  Just hold tight to God's promise that He is working all things together for your good, and check back tomorrow to see what God has to say in response to Moses' query.
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