How to lead yourself when you hit a dead end…

In Exodus 17 we read the account of God leading Moses and the Israelites to a place named “Massah” (the place of testing) also known as “Meribah” (the place of arguing”).

What was the problem?  A simple one.  There was no water.  The people were dying of thirst.

This simple problem, however, gets more complicated when you recall what Moses used for his GPS.  “The LORD guided them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.  That way they could travel whether it was day or night.”  (Exodus 13:21)

Now you begin to see why this was such a huge test for Isael, why there was so much arguing, and why Moses feared for his life as men begain picking up stones.

God had led them here, to this place without water, on purpose.  Just let those words sink in for a few seconds.

Why would God purposely lead his people to a deadly dead end?  Or, more personally for Sandi and me right now, why would God lead us to move our family over 800 miles to South Carolina knowing the company we planned to work for would restructure their entire operation leaving us both without jobs in less than a year?  (Yes, this one hits very close to home…)

We all hit these kind of dead ends from time to time.  Unexpected losses, illnesses, financial reversals, relational disappointments, and dreams that eventually die are not strangers to us.  But, when you are suppose to be a leader, and people are looking to you for direction, what are you to do?

1.  Plead with the Lord

After Moses is confronted by the angry, thirsy mob he turns to the Lord and pleads, “What should I do with these people?  They are about to stone me!”
“What should I do?” is a good prayer for all of us at a dead end.  The reality is we don’t know what to do (because if we did we would do it already!).  A prayer of humility is always a good start – “I am overwhelmed and confused Lord.  I don’t know what to do, I don’t even know what to think right now.  Would you help me?  Would you lead me?”
2.  Remember the former dead ends that God transformed into highways
Why wasn’t Moses panicked and angry at God like everyone else?  What did Moses know that they didn’t?  What was his secret?
Moses remembered.  He remembered how God separated the waters of the Red Sea to literally create a highway through the depths.  He also remembered how God released the waters to protect Israel from their tormentors.  He recalled how God turned the bitter waters at Marah into Aquafina after showing him a branch to toss in.  And, he remembered what he ate for breakfast that very morning – manna.  The daily bread that sustained Israel for 40 years.
God’s past faithfulness become levers that move mountains…
3.  Leave the heavy lifting to God while being faithful in the small stuff
The logic of faith says that if God leads you to point A he will also supply the necessary provision for you to do whatever he is asking.  God led Israel to Meribah, God asked Moses to lead them all the way to the Promised Land, thus God must provide (in his own way, in his own time, to achieve his own purposes).  In the end God tells Moses to take a few leaders and whack a rock with a stick.  The result?  Water gushed out.
Moses had a job to do.  He had to call some of the leadres together.  He needed to take them ahead of the people.  And it was his job to strike the rock with his staff.  He needed to be faithful to what God had called him to do and what God has placed in his hands.  (We learn just how important this is the next time God asks Moses to retrieve water from a rock in Numbers 20:11-12.)
God’s job?  To do what only he could do.  Give his children their daily bread (in this case their daily water) in the most challenging of circumstances.  
What are Sandi and I doing right now to be faithful?  We are applying for jobs.  We are starting a coaching business.  I plan to go back to painting houses until something opens up.  Since we believe God led us here, we believe that he will do for us what only he can do.  And honestly, some days we say, “Lord, we do believe, but help us in our unbelief!”
So, why did God bring our family to Pawleys Island, South Carolina knowing we would lose our jobs?  We get a clue on a possible reason at the end of the story of Meribah.  The people tested the Lord by saying, “Is the LORD going to take care of us, or not?”
As we follow God in a spirit of humility, as we strive to maintain a clean conscience, and as we are faithful to what God has asked us to do – it all comes down to that question: do we believe our Father is going to take care of us, or not?

2 Responses to How to lead yourself when you hit a dead end…

  1. Tom and Sandy, I want to thank you for your pioneering spirit and trust in God to do something so radical as to relocate your family from Michigan to Pawleys Island. While you may now wonder why, I want to reassure you that your personal example of working together to do that, was inspiring for me, knowing the reasons why you did it. Following Jesus has become too safe for most of us. March on through this change with same approach. Your lives have been a powerful inspiration to me as I live my life for Him! Jim K

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