I want to shout out a secret to authentic interior freedom, a secret which will go against every fiber of your being. The answer to every crisis, every threat you will face in your life on earth is to stand still and trust.
Easier said than done.
As sinful humans, we are wired to fight or flee from any threat to ourselves or those we love. Unfortunately, if we want to live in the kingdom of heaven as children of God, we soon learn this fight or flight reaction is not God’s way of defeating our enemies. Even though we are Catholics who have been confirmed by the Holy Spirit in His power, we often behave exactly as the Israelite slaves in the Old Testament.
Time and time again, the Israelites had witnessed the power of God defeat their enemies in Egypt. However, as they faced the Red Sea and saw Pharaoh’s army draw near, “the Israelites looked back”. Exodus 14:10
Big mistake. Lot’s wife looked back and remember what happened to her?
She turned to a pillar of rock salt.
What do we do when we are trying to leave our former lives of sin and learn to walk in the Light of Christ?
We look back with longing just like the Israelites to our days of comfortable slavery where every detail of our lives were familiar to us. Of course, as modern people who feel entitled to live in relative luxury, we complain even louder than the Israelites did in the desert.
These words from Exodus reveal not only the Israelite’s weakness every time they find themselves in a crisis, but our weakness as well. It is always a big mistake to look back when we are breaking out from our own slavery because our enemies are usually advancing on us.
10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
The journey to freedom is never easy; it is hard to make a clean break from any state of bondage. Freedom does not come cheap. Like the Israelites, we often complain life was much easier in slavery. The journey to freedom is a journey into the unknown where the greatest challenge is not only the hardship of living as free men and women of God but the fact we must face all of our own fears. Just like the Israelites we lack faith in the strength of God to keep us safe.
What is the answer to every crisis, every threat to our freedom?
As Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm…The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
We only have to keep still and trust. Standing still in the face of threats is the most difficult stance to maintain because everything in us wants to run back into the comfort of the life we are familiar with. Every counselor understands this tendency to take two steps forward and one step back. We are afraid of freedom, afraid of living a life that is unknown.
Christians, true disciples of Jesus, are called to stand still just like the Israelite in their journey through the desert, looking forward and trusting in God. If we can learn this lesson perhaps we will not have to journey for 40 years in our own purgative deserts like the Israelites did. When we finally surrender to God’s ways, we will sing and dance with Miriam “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously” Then we give all credit and praise to God, not to our own wit and schemes.
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