By Linda Bernson-Tang, Crosswalk.com
Today my little girl opened the refrigerator and stretched her head inside.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
“Trying to see how the inside looks when the light goes off,” she answered. She closed the door as far as it would allow. And to think she was looking for something sugary or cheesy.
There was no fooling the sensor; the light remained on. Seeing how the Ketchup and quart of milk looked in the dark would be left to her imagination, serving up the reminder that no matter how much we stretch, some realities are not possible to spot.
I thought about Moses and his inability to catch sight of what he thought was up ahead: The Promised Land. What a hit to the hopes when God told him he would not bring the Israelites into Canaan. In thinking about my own “where I can’t see’s” and God’s purposes, I began to understand this denial differently.
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Mistakes and All, “Where I Can’t See’s” Are Independent of God’s Plan
While tending the flock of his father-in-law in Midian, God calls Moses from a burning bush at Mt. Horeb to share concern over His peoples’ suffering. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites” (Exodus 3:8).
God continues: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). God knows Moses will be tested. Similarly, God knows the temptations and hardships we will face, including our frailties and choices long before we know them.
In the Desert of Zin, instead of speaking to the rock to draw out the water for the Israelites to drink as God had directed (Numbers 20:8), Moses strikes the rock twice, and had “(broken) faith with God in the presence of the Israelites” (Deut. 32:51). In a moment of anger, Moses reacts, disobeying God’s instructions while mistakenly sharing credit with God for the provision of water (Numbers 20:10). I wrestle with God’s discipline every time I read the consequence but recall when I’ve succumbed to anger as well. I also remember that God’s personhood and power had been publicly devalued and that portrayal could not stand. But in His mercy, God still blesses Moses.
Before his death, God directs Moses to ascend Mount Nebo where he was to look across the Jordan River and out at the Promised Land. "Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it" (Deut. 34:4).
God points Moses to the full landscape of where the Israelites whom he had faithfully led, would settle for future generations. “There the LORD showed him the whole land – from Gilead to Dan all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar” (Deut. 34:1-3). God grants Moses the opportunity to see the Promised Land from above, perhaps observing more than what he would have at ground level.
There was even a greater blessing. Moses knew God intimately. God buried Moses Himself, privately, apart from the community. “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). Arguably, Moses’ personal relationship with God trumps any earthly outcome that we deem as “the big finish,” with the critical message that God alone is man’s true provider.
God’s Purpose Has More to Do with Eternal vs. Earthly Goals
Scripture reveals God’s many promises in the Bible, including prophecies about the Messiah, later fulfilled. Promising to show us an upcoming result isn’t a promise—if only, right? God is most concerned about our eternal future rather than earthly outcomes despite our desperateness. “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). When faced with a problem or choice, for example, am I praying and depending on God for HIS wisdom and guidance or asking Him to put into play my plans based on personal eagerness? Are my hopes and plans more important than seeking God Himself? By praying rather than gripping end results, I continue to build a God-centered perspective around my ambitions, plans, and people whom I love.
Here are 6 lessons in battling the “looking where you can’t see’s” I’ve learned that can also help:
1. Identify Your Need-to-Know Root
Is restlessness stemming from curiosity, fear, or inability to rest in the unknown? When I insert a key into my worry engine over what’s up ahead, I am doing the very opposite of what God has commanded. He can help me overcome that temptation to dwell and to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This act of bringing my angst over unknowns to God, even if I have to drag them, must be a daily discipline. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
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2. Believe God’s Promises
“The LORD replied ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). Not only does God promise to be with us as we step into all daily unknowns, but promises those steps won’t defeat us. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 42:2-3). There are times I long to avoid making a hard decision or steer clear of discomfort. Jesus Himself asked the Father if He was willing to “take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). There are cups God places into our hands and have us drink from but the promise of His presence, provision, and heavenly home prepared for believers must be the source of security rather than removal of the cup.
3. No Matter What’s Ahead, God Equips
Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and because you are rooted in Him, that means you endure trials and overcome in HIS strength. Before Jesus commissioned the disciples and sent them out, He breathed on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-23). That same Holy Spirit and helper whom Jesus promised would teach the disciples all things, is the same Holy Spirit who accompanies us. We don’t know the timing nor method of God’s deliverance from challenges, but God can work out His best outcome, independent of our weaknesses, guess work, and logic. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
4. Even Though Unseen, God's Plan Prevails
After Moses killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave, Moses fled to Midian where he later married and tended his father-in-law’s flock. He may have thought he would spend the rest of his days herding sheep, as that’s all he could see, but God had a trajectory for Moses’ life. “He (God) sent Moses his servant and Aaron, whom he had chosen” (Psalm 104:26). King David echoes this truth about God’s omniscience for His children: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). A ruthless and stubborn Pharaoh, a complaining and rebellious people, battles with neighboring tribes and Moses’ individual frailty, would be components of the plan but God’s will to deliver the Israelites from bondage and establish the nation of Israel would still be activated.
God has chosen you to for specific works as well and doesn’t get swayed by human behavior, reactions, or pleading on what we feel we deserve. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by His hand (Psalm 139:14). “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Philippians 2:13 also tells us: “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
5. “Where I Can’t See’s” Create Dependence on God That Blesses My Days
Jesus became the substitute for judgment against sin, standing in the space between God and man—that means for you and me. For those who believe, we are forgiven, redeemed, and united to God our Father because of the grace, mercy, and love He gave and continues to give. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
Uncertainty of what’s up ahead in light of what Jesus personally sacrificed for me, keeps me in a state of yearning to be more like Him and less like my fleshy being. Does the call on my life as God’s child trump my need-to-know what-ifs on what’s ahead? If not, my desires have pushed Jesus to the margins of life.
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6. “Where I Can’t See’s” Remind Me of What I Can See and What Is Known: Heaven
“What ifs” and unknowns remind me that earthly circumstances are temporary and that there is a longed-for dwelling place other than where I currently live, that is perfect and permanent. The lack of what I can give myself, including forgiveness, salvation, and freedom from judgment combined with God’s unmatched power and omniscience, keeps me close to Jesus’ side. That lack also challenges me to trust in Him to be God over my earthly time while looking ahead to my heavenly home, where as a believer, I know God has prepared with His forever presence. My closest, most supportive friends, influential role models, and spiritual, civic community leaders can’t match God’s power nor what He has established for eternity. “I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever” (Psalm 44:3-8).
So, seeker of wanting to know what’s up ahead, close the refrigerator door, quiet the curiosity, and read about God’s character in the scriptures and what’s up ahead from a heavenly standpoint. God’s personhood and purposes are worth knowing today and He has given us far more than a glimpse into His character, available every day to experience and see now.
If you really need to get a glimpse of what’s up ahead, open the oven door and picture what’s cooking for tonight’s dinner. That, you can probably see, and chances are, someone in the house will be wanting to as well.