Though we talked on the phone, it was not hard to picture her face. Previously, she had sat in my office with puffy red eyes—tears streaking her cheeks. The struggles she had victoriously worked through, rose before her again. Her husband, a worker in the medical industry, had been exposed multiple times to the coronavirus. As a result, this sweet woman was now quarantined to work at home. She sat alone in her empty nest while her husband, with a myriad of health problems of his own, manned the front lines.
Anxiety, depression, and anger filled her.
“It’s hard,” she cried, “it’s so hard.”
There are times when we have to stop and agree that, “Yes, this is hard.”
And yet, we must never lose sight of the fact that no matter how overwhelming our life looks, it is never impossible. With love and compassion, we must take our weary fellow travelers (and sometimes ourselves) to the hope we have (Romans 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 8:18-25).
Gently, we remind them that our Good Shepherd walks with us through each valley, but long before David penned Psalm 23:4, Moses encouraged God’s people with a similar message. Knowing that the things written in the Old Testament were given for our admonition and example (1 Corinthians 10:11), we can confidently turn to Deuteronomy to give hope to anxious counselees.
“For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.
He knows your going through this great wilderness.
These forty years the LORD your God has been with you.
You have lacked nothing.”
Deuteronomy 2:7, ESV
God Knows and Walks With Us Through Hard Times
“He knows your going through this great wilderness.” How calming it is to know that not one step of our life’s journey escapes our heavenly Father—not our pain, our frustration, or our despair.
The One who sees the sparrow fall and counts every hair on our head has our names written on His palms and holds us in His hands (Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:7; Isaiah 49:16; John 10:29). There is no place we can go where He is not with us, nor can we begin to count how often He is thinking about us (Psalm 139).
The certainty of God’s presence is a point that Moses continued to drive home in the next phrase.
“He knows your going through this great wilderness.
These forty years the LORD your God has been with you.”
Deuteronomy 2:7b, c
Not only was God with them each moment of those forty years, but He saw each need.
God Provides All We Need to Get Through Hard Times
“You have lacked nothing.”
We can be assured that, as we walk by faith, our needs will also be met. Because “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
For “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith” (Matthew 6:30-33).
He promises rest to all the weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28), a throne of grace where mercy and grace are offered (Hebrews 4:16), and peace amid a world filled with trouble (John 16:33).
But our heavenly Father doesn’t stop there.
God Longs to Bless the Work of our Hands in Hard Times
“For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.”
Israel had just victoriously crossed the Red Sea when Moses asked God to “establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17b).
But what was the work of their hands? What did the children of Israel do as they wandered around the desert for forty years? Their shoes didn’t wear out, nor did their clothes rot (Deuteronomy 8:4; 29:5). With all the manna and quail, they didn’t do a tremendous amount of cooking (Exodus 16:4-5, 13). So, aside from breaking down and setting up camp, what did they do—besides, well, wander?
They built the tabernacle.
The logic of building a mobile dwelling of intricate beauty in the middle of a desert must have caused other nations to shake their heads. Who was this God who asked for such labor, but then had them walk in circles for forty years?
The kind of God who wants to be near His people no matter where they are—and He has not changed. To the temporarily homeless nation, the tabernacle was where they communed with God and enjoyed His presence. When they stopped on their journey, it was the first thing to be assembled in the very center of the camp. Each of the twelve tribes faced the tabernacle, making the presence of God their focal point.
Just as the tabernacle, and later the temple, housed the presence of God, we believers also house His presence today (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:15-20; 1 Peter 2:5).
And, just as it took time and intention to assemble and break down the tabernacle, it takes time and attention for us to seek God’s presence. Hard circumstances notwithstanding, meeting with God each day has to be a consistent part of our lives.
As the tabernacle was a place for God’s presence, it was also a place for purification. Job knew that the fire of affliction was needed to produce gold in his life. The dross that mars the image of God from shining in our lives rises to the surface when we walk through the fire (Job 23:10; 42:5-6). Let us resolve, like Job, to cooperate with God in the sanctification process (Job 13:15).
God Asks for Our Willing Sacrifice for Our Growth During Hard Times
When they began the construction of the tabernacle, God instructed Moses to, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me” (Exodus 25:1-2).
And they did—so much so that they finally had to be told to stop giving (Exodus 35:5-7). This begs the question of us as to just how serious we are about being close to God? How much are we willing to sacrifice to have intimate communion with Him, even when we don’t know what is ahead?
Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1, ESV).
Sacrifice isn’t demanded of us; it is asked. And, as sacrifices do, there will be a cost. But, oh, the joy we will have when we come out the other side looking more like Jesus and having a more elevated view and love for our holy God (Isaiah 45:3).
Yes, my Lord knows the way through the wilderness.
All we have to do is follow.