When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

Understanding the will of God isn’t just a twenty-first century issue we’re experiencing because of a certain white noise called social media. Or the outpouring of too many years’ post crucifixion. Nor is it a matter of recent debate. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a topic of discussion since God marched Adam and Eve outside the luscious landscape of the garden.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:11-22
Key Verse: “He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” Acts 7:25


For God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8), so the whole wrapping our minds around his sovereign plan thing, a bit baffling at times. But waiting for it to unfold – a different story altogether.

Especially when we’re passionate and have great intentions. A plan to bring glory to God. Desires that match his own. And a small sliver of an idea of how God might use us in this great big world.

Yet day after day nothing happens. No, this-is-what-I’ve-been-waiting-for phone calls come. No doors burst open. No new path is carved. And it’s hard to wait on God. To sit back and relax. To trust and believe and not take matters into our own hands.

As Moses did forty years in. He’d grown up Egyptian, yet understood his Hebrew heritage and had a heart for his people. According to Acts 7:25 he also had an idea God intended to use him to free the Israelites. He just didn’t know when or how.

And to his credit, he was willing. The problem? It wasn’t time. The motive was right but not the moment. The four hundred years God mentioned to Abraham had yet to be completed, the people’s suffering unfinished, and Moses, well, he was far from the faith filled leader Israel would need.

But as is often the case when we let desire cloud discretion, Moses moved ahead of God. Filled with compassion for his brethren he went to see them “and looked on their burdens” (v. 11). But it wasn’t just a quick glance or a little “I wonder what they’re up to” once-over. The Hebrew verb for looked means “to see with emotion.” It was a gut twisting gaze. The heart-breaking kind.

So when Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew (probably to death), he couldn’t help himself. “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (v. 12)

His sense of justice not totally out of place. Nor his rights as prince of the land. Yet it was wrong because it wasn’t necessary. God didn’t plan to save his people through the works of Moses. He planned to save them through glorifying works of his own. Just as he saves us. By grace though faith in his power and provision.

So the LORD waited until Moses was an old man (relatively speaking). Until his power was stripped. Until he had nothing left to offer but the words of God – to redeem the Israelites from the hand of slavery. Because it’s not us who deserves the glory, it’s God.

Though at the time, Moses had no idea what God was up to. (I think we’ve all been there.) Yet filled with undeterred passion for his people he couldn’t stay away. So he went again the very next day to visit the people but this time found two Hebrews fighting. And said to him, “Why do you strike your companion?” To which the man replied “Who made you prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (v. 14)

Not exactly the response Moses was planning on. He figured the Israelite’s “understood that God was giving them salvation by his hand” (Acts 7:25). Upon realizing not everyone was on the same page, Moses was afraid.

And rightly so because when Pharaoh got wind of it, he tried to kill him. Not because Moses had committed murder, but because he had joined the hot civil rights movement and was no longer one of them.

So Moses fled to the land of Midian where he came to the rescue of seven unwed sisters, found himself invited for dinner, and ended up marrying one of them. My favorite part? Though he’d made a mistake he was still snug in the hand God. A lovely reassurance for us who struggle with GAGS (Getting Ahead of God Syndrome). (You’re welcome for the acronym.)

Moses met four decades in the wilderness. God was in no hurry. But the problem is, we often are. Leading us to assume God’s moved on, decided on someone else, or had an entirely different plan altogether. A plan we were never meant to be a part of.

Think Moses struggled with any doubts his forty years in Midian? I think anyone would have. But God hadn’t set Moses. He hadn’t changed his mind. Moses hadn’t misunderstood. Nor was he being punished. He was being prepared. A reality I need to sit close with.

Little did Moses realize the land he dwelt in and learned and grew comfortable exploring was the very land he would lead the Israelites around on for forty adventurous years. He also learned to be a shepherd, keeping watch over his father-in-law’s flocks. A skill he’d later use shepherding God’s unruly people (Ps. 77:20).

Not to mention the lessons in unconditional love he gained by having a wife and two boys, along with the experience of patiently disciplining, encouraging, and raising children. Skills he’d not doubt put to good use.

Consequently, it’s possible his father-in-law, who just happened to be a priest, taught him valuable insights about the LORD. As a descendant of Abraham through his wife Keturah it’s feasible Reuel served the true God.

Though Moses couldn’t see it, God was working. The same God that lead Abraham’s servant to the well Rebecca was at, and Jacob to the well Rachel was at, is the same God that lead Moses to the well his wife was at.

The same God that used the Midianites to carry Joseph to Egypt is the same God that now used the Midianites to prepare Moses to bring them out of Egypt.

The same God who allowed Moses’ life to mirror that of Christ’s by causing him to be rejected by his own people so he would turn to the gentiles, marry a gentile wife, and then later appear again to the Israelites as their deliverer and be accepted by them the second time, is the same God who’s allowed my life and yours to mirror the redemption Israel received.

And this same God, is still in charge today. So if you’ve made your home in the wilderness, if you’re not where you thought you’d be this time last year, if you’re waiting on God to move, to work, to open a door either here or there – think of Moses and his season of preparation. God’s working my friend, even when we can’t see it. Just be faithful and follow Him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you waiting on God to do? Are you trusting in his plan and purpose or have you moved ahead because it’s taking too long?
How might your current circumstances be preparing you for the works God has ahead?

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