I recently made a startling discovery. As I hunched over a stack of crumpled pay stubs, invoices, and receipts and punched calculator buttons until my fingertips were numb in an attempt to prepare my 2015 taxes, I realized that I’ve earned less total income this year than last. This is not good for a person who makes her living as a self-employed writer.
The realization immediately prompted a flurry of questions and panicky prayers. Should I start looking for a traditional job? I asked God. Should I wait out this season of uncertainty? Should I try to eke out more freelance work? What’s your plan for me?
The more I prayed, the more specific my prayers got. Tell me what to do, I pleaded. Give me a sign; show me which steps to take.
Moses had a similar heart-to heart with God when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. Things hadn’t been going particularly well for the new leader. Not only had his people crafted a golden calf to worship, they were also grumbling non-stop, pestering Moses about where they were headed and blaming him for their miserable existence.
Frustrated, Moses laid it all on the line with God. “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me,” he said. “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (Exodus 33:12-13)
Moses demanded specifics – “Whom will you send with me?” – as well as a clear strategy – “Teach me your ways.”
God heard Moses’ plaintive questions and his yearning for specifics, yet he answered in a way Moses did not likely expect. “My Presence will go with you,” the Lord assured his devoted leader, “and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
Like Moses, I didn’t receive a specific answer, detailed instructions, or even the answer I desired from God the day I blurted my panicky prayers. Instead, I was reminded of God’s promise to his people – the promise he made to Moses in ancient times, the promise he still has for us today.
We may want the step-by-step plan, but we get something even better, something that will carry us through even the most challenging circumstances. We get God’s presence.
God is who he says he is: Emmanuel — God with us.