Don’t Despair

Doing what God asks you to do may not work at first or the way you expected. When Moses reluctantly returned to Egypt, he knew what his job was supposed to be. He was supposed to go to the Pharaoh of Egypt and demand that the Israelites be permitted to go worship God for three days. In reality, he was to lead the Israelites to freedom from slavery for good and lead them back to the land from which their ancestors had left over four hundred years previously. To help him convince both the Israelites and the Pharaoh to listen, God had given him a couple of impressive signs to perform.

His confidence was shattered, however, when Pharaoh not only turned down his request, but actually made life even more difficult for the Israelites he had hoped to rescue. Angry and upset, he prayed, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23).

In response, God reassured Moses and told him to simply be patient, it would eventually work out—after God sent ten plagues against Egypt that almost destroyed the country. The process took at least a year, maybe more. This was neither the way nor the length of time that Moses had anticipated. Doing what God wanted took a lot more time and energy than he expected. And of course, once the people were rescued, the short trip to the Promised Land ended up being a nightmare forty years in the making.

Just because the going gets harder, just because you face opposition and disappointment, just because it doesn’t work the first time or even the hundredth time, does not necessarily mean that you’re going the wrong way.

Someone once wrote that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Someone else wrote that only a fool believes that the same procedures that failed before will work if you try it again and again. There comes a time, some say, to stop beating a dead horse.

“I know this is where God wants me to be. I’m so thankful he’s given me the opportunity to be at this college.”

My fellow classmate had stood up in chapel service and voiced his enthusiasm. With high school behind him, new textbooks, new classes, new dorm room, and new friends, at eighteen the world was full of exiting possibilities and boundless hope.

Two weeks later he was in my dorm room, his face betraying his inner despair. “I always got A’s in high school. I don’t understand what happened.” He showed me his first paper, a five page effort produced for his biology class. A bright red C lit up the corner of the front page, just below his name. “I just don’t know any more if this is where God wants me to be after all.”

Frank Herbert became a very famous science fiction novelist. His best known novel, Dune, which has been made into both a major motion picture as well as a mini-series on the Science Fiction Channel, was rejected by over twenty publishers before it was finally picked up by one that normally only published manuals for repairing cars. If, after sending his book to nineteen publishers and being told “no thank you” had he decided that it simply wasn’t meant to be and he should take up ditch digging instead, both he and the world would have been worse off. Failure does not come from things not working smoothly or the way you expected. Failure comes from giving up. Winston Churchill is quoted as giving a very short commencement address once. He told the new graduates a very simple thing: “Never, never, never give up.” And then he sat back down. He knew whereof he spoke: most of his political career he was a back bencher, rising to become prime minister only after years of ridicule and having been written off at an age when most people would be long retired—and then to face a crisis of unprecedented horror such as the world, and Great Britain, had never faced before.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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