illogical, inefficient, but incredibly sovereign

The journey God has each of us on does not always make sense logistically. His plan does not typically seem like the most efficient way to get us from point A to point B, but for some reason, it’s the right way.

Two years ago, Eric and I began to pray and fast and seek God’s voice on a major decision: whether or not to join staff with Cru, a college ministry organization. Not only would this mean a job change, but it would also entail raising support for all of our expenses. It meant a major lifestyle change, from the 8-5 world to the more fluid world of a college student’s schedule. A change from the world of work’s measurable success in goals completed and numbers achieved to the world of all results of life change and Gospel acceptance being in God’s hands and not necessarily related to the hours put in each week.

So for five months we prayed and asked the Lord if this was where He was leading us, if we were supposed to turn off our current path of marketplace jobs and follow a new trail through the woods. And, very clearly, He told us to take this new course for our lives.

I quit my job. Eric worked 50+ hours each week in his marketing position, then came home to work his second job of raising support with me. We spent our evenings in meetings with various people, traveled out of town some, and prayed a lot. We continually found ourselves taking steps of faith and trusting God with the results. And He was continually faithful, in one way or another. Sometimes financially as relating to support. Sometimes financially as relating to our now decreased income. Sometimes relationally as restoring old friendships and providing new ones. Always spiritually as His presence daily being our sufficiency.

Yet the story doesn’t end with both of us being on staff with Cru. It took an unexpected turn when we felt like we needed to step away from that path to stop raising full support, allowing me to start on campus not-quite-full-time with Cru but Eric to stay at his corporate job.

Why didn’t God tell us that in the first place? Why did we walk through so many sacrifices and stressful days and dreams to end up somewhere other than where we originally saw God taking us?

I feel like the Israelites had to be asking themselves similar questions in Exodus 1, as Pharaoh begins to oppress them and force them into slavery in Egypt. But to really understand their story – and mine, and maybe even your own – allow me to briefly recap their story and how they ended up in Egypt.

Scene One: God’s covenant with Abram, specifically the promise that He will give Abram’s descendants a land of their own

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3, ESV)

Scene Two: God specifically tells Abram what land He will give them

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21, ESV)

Scene Three: Jacob, Abram’s grandson, was living in Canaan, the future Promised Land, with his family – but it was not theirs yet. Joseph is sold by his brothers into slavery and taken to Egypt.

Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan… Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:1, 26-28, ESV)

Scene Four: Joseph forgives his brothers for what they did to him and invites them to come live in Egypt, under his care, so that they may not be wiped out by the famine

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ ” (Genesis 45:4-11, ESV)

Egypt became God’s source of provision for His people, a means of survival in the midst of a famine. Living in Goshen was a result of His sovereign hand. He led (through Joseph’s rise to a powerful position), and they followed.

Yet what once was a place of blessing was now a place of persecution. 

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. (Exodus 1:8-14, ESV)

I often assume that Egypt was a place of disobedience, and slavery must have been a consequence to something or another. The mention of Egypt often relates to the concept of “sin” in the Bible, and Israel was often in bondage as a result of not trusting God. But their distance from the Promised Land here wasn’t a result of them not following God. God had planned for them to go to Egypt. He blessed that move out of Canaan during Joseph’s season of power. Yet it wasn’t where they were supposed to stay. They were still destined to possess the land of Canaan, and God must wanted them to desire to move on to where He has promised them.

Now, geographically, this doesn’t quite make sense. (These maps were not drawn by me…)

Notice, Jericho and the entrance to the Promised Land looks to be just north of Hebron. Yet God brought his people west to Egypt for a season before taking them southeast and north to return to the land He had chosen for them.

God’s provision for us on the journey to Cru was not necessarily to take us to the destination we believed we were traveling towards. We are still walking through this journey, so I don’t know that I have all of the answers yet, but I can see ways that God used that season for our good. It challenged us in our view of God and what He was capable of. It challenged me in my identity and my willingness to release it all to God for His purposes, not my security. It brought new friendships and deeper conversations with others, which we are still enjoying today. We saw prayers answered in the ways we hoped and in ways we didn’t expect. God was so present during that time, but it wasn’t where we were meant to stay – at least not at this time.

God’s provision in your location right now (literally or metaphorically) is not necessarily your destination. It could be, but more often than not, we find ourselves getting comfortable and settling in just as God is planning a new transition. Our decisions up to that point haven’t necessarily been wrong – I don’t think we were wrong to take a step of faith, join staff with Cru, and start raising support – but it can very easily become wrong when our security and our identity is wrapped up in a self-confidence in our trail instead of a God-confidence no matter what new paths He asks us to follow.

Maybe you will be forced to move out of your situation because of a change in circumstances. Israel no longer found Egypt a place of refuge; it became a place of bondage. Or maybe it will simply be a heart conviction, telling you it’s time to move on.

But in the midst of the pain that eventually seems to come, no matter how great a change is, God is in it. I love how it is expressed at the end of Exodus 2: “And God heard their groaning, and God remember his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel –– and God knew.” (Exodus 2:24-25, ESV)

God sees you, no matter where you are on your journey, and He knows. He is sovereign over our journey and faithful to care for us, even when our rest turns to ruthless oppression, or our provision turns to pressure to make a change. God sees, and God knows.

In case you want to make this more personal for you…

  • Where in your life have you seen a similar story – what seemed like God changing the plans He originally had, or where His provision seemed to turn sour? {key word: seemed}
  • What part of the journey are you on right now?
  • How can you make a habit of taking a perspective above your current circumstances to examine what God could be doing, even if things don’t logistically make sense?
  • What truth about God do you need to cling to as you continue on your current path? What Scripture passage clearly states this?
  • What securities do you need to surrender to allow Him to be your one sufficiency?

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