Up Against It

“Bloom!” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2018 Lynn Abbott

It’s the stuff that nightmares and horror movies depend upon: trapped with no way out.

My vivid imagination replays images of Indiana Jones fleeing huge boulders,   viper pits, or passing through the gauntlet.

Perhaps, your nightmares take a more classical turn, and like my son, you feared the Greek labyrinth and its gruesome Minotaur.

Whatever the case, the fear of “no way out” haunts humanity.

I certainly can testify that. As a child, I experienced many “dead-end” nightmares.

However, I also watched one too many Star Trek episodes.

Thus,  although my nightmares invariably involved my being ambushed by some horror, I frequently awakened to my own cries: “Beam me up, Scotty.”

I wish adult crises were so easily evaded.  After all, at some point, all of us stare into the fierce and glittering eyes of the “unbearable.” Our nemesis pins us against the wall.

No place to hide.

Cornered in the workplace?  You may confront injustice within a corrupt system that doesn’t value mercy or compassion.

Perhaps, weakened by disease, you lose your independence.  You become trapped by a physical condition over which you have no control.

Nightmares may overtake you at home.  Snarling and snapping, strife and dissension make an ugly pair.

Some find themselves hemmed in by financial crisis…barely hanging on as their economic earthquake rattles security.

You may face horror when you take a stand for your faith.  Persecution nips at your heels, and backs you into a tight space.

The fear of “no way out” haunts humanity.

Unfortunately, in my real world experience,   Scotty has yet to “beam me up.”

Even so, I’ve found comfort in the life stories of a prophet and an apostle.

Both Moses and John  encountered life’s “unbearables” and at one time, each found himself up against a wall…

Of course, Moses must have been elated when Pharaoh finally gave the “go-ahead” for the Jewish people’s release and he immediately got God’s people outta Egypt.

But God’s itinerary did not follow the most direct path to Canaan.  You see, as the crow flies, the quickest route would have led Moses and God’s people into military conflict with the Philistines.

Yeah, Abba always calls it right.  A disorganized and bickering bunch of former slaves were thoroughly unprepared to confront the highly skilled, Philistine, war machine.

As the book of Exodus reveals, they were a far cry from an organized and obedient military force.  For this reason, God prepared Wilderness Boot Camp (Exodus 13:18).

And so it was.   Their detour around Philistea brought them to Etham, located not far from the Red Sea.

Meanwhile back at the Egyptian palace,  Pharaoh already regretted losing his primary workforce. Thus, he gathered his army, engaged his chariots, and pursued his former slaves.

When the dust clouds from the chariots began to rise in the distance, the Israelis rightly feared.

Unfortunately, in my real world experience,   Scotty has yet to “beam me up.”

What I find most striking about the account  is that  Moses and the people were following God and yet, they were undeniably penned in…

The Red Sea prevented their flight and Pharaoh’s vast army would overwhelm them.

I sympathize with the people’s genuinely human response: “‘Is is because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?  Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 13: 11).

Then, as if to clinch the argument, they whimpered, “…it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness,” (Exodus 13:12b).

As I read Exodus 13 and 14, however, it becomes evident that God allowed this seemingly catastrophic scenario in order to accomplish His ultimate purpose.

God said, “…I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know [italics mine] that I am the LORD,” (Exodus 14:4b).

Sometimes Abba allows us to face the “unbearable.”

Without question, Abba knew that Pharaoh’s Egypt would back Israel into a corner.  Yet, He allowed it.

The purpose?  God planned an amazing display of His power and grace in the lives of His beloved people.

Moses responded to the people’s complaints and fears, “Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which he will accomplish for you today…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent,” (Exodus 14: 13,14).

Against the wall,  the people feared.  Panicked, in fact.

Abba’s response?  I am about to do a mighty work through you.  Do not fear. Stand back; wait quietly for my salvation.

Pharaoh’s chariots thundered.  And Moses obeyed God’s command and stretched out his hand over the Red Sea…

The waters parted.

Where there was no way, God miraculously created a beach boardwalk for His people’s feet alone.

When the Egyptian army tried to follow,  God instructed Moses to once again stretch out his hand over the sea, and the waters crashed in upon the Egyptians.

Yes, sometimes Abba allows us to face the “unbearable.”

Frequently, our backs brush the wall.

Where there was no way, God miraculously created a beach boardwalk for His people’s feet alone.

But you and I can take heart.  Abba has a magnificent plan.  When our backs press against that cold stone,  He brings forth miraculous beauty.  Through our lives, He often demonstrates His power  for “Pharaoh” to see.

On such occasions, Abba parts the Red Sea. And the Egyptians know beyond a shadow of doubt that Yahweh is the Great “I AM.”

Grace blooms.

Often.

But not always.

The apostle John’s life illustrates that.

Reading John’s extraordinary book of last things, Revelation, I recognize that on the Isle of Patmos, John’s back also pressed hard against the wall.  Imprisoned for his faith in Christ,  John entertained no hope for escape.

He was trapped.

The Aegean Sea did not part.  In fact, John died on what was, at that time, a  deserted island.

Certainly, the Egyptians did not come to know the LORD through John’s imprisonment. Nor did any remarkable, physical miracles occur on Patmos.

Yet, while God’s plan for John did not include a splashy rescue, it certainly was  miraculous:  John himself met Abba in a spectacularly, deep way.

You and I can take heart; Abba has a magnificent plan.

As a result,  in the book of Revelation, John painted a powerful portrait of our Sovereign Savior.

Indeed. Sometimes, Abba rescues His child in order to demonstrate His grace and power so that the world might come to know Abba.

But on other occasions, our heavenly Father simply sustains you and me so that we might come to know Him better.

Back against the wall?  Rest assured that Abba has an incredible plan for you, His beloved child.

In fact, in the midst of the “unbearable,” our Sovereign-Shepherd calls forth grace, and in our hearts,  a deeper understanding–or “knowing”–of our great Savior blooms.

“…We went through fire and through water; Yet, Thou didst bring us out into a place of abundance,” ~Psalm 66:10-12.