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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When We’re Called to Let Go

He had it all. Every comfort you could imagine. The best of Egypt at his fingertips. The latest technology, the fastest chariots, the choicest of fruits, servants, wealth, prestige, power, fame. He said it and it was done. He asked for it and it was delivered.


Devotional Scripture: Acts 7:17-29; Hebrews 11:23-27
Key Verse: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Hebrews 11:26


401 Easy Street, is where Moses resided. In the shimmering, cool, palace of an elite world power. Adopted as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter it’s even possible he was next in line for the throne.

Yet Hebrews 11:24 tells us he refused it. He “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25). Considering “the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26).

Counting the luxuries he’d been handed as nothing, he exchanged the palace for a tent, riches for a relationship, honor for dishonor, affluence for affliction, ample amenities for very few, the royal robes of Egypt for a shepherd’s coat

Would you have done it? Would you have left the lap of luxury for a seat at the commoner’s table? I don’t know if I would have. In all honesty, I’ve stumbled through the text this week for fear of what lies on the other side. What sacrifice I might be called to make.

Because the truth is, I like my comforts and conveniences. Don’t you? Nestled amid the amenities of the palace I know the conversation I would have been having with Jesus. “LORD, please, can’t I just serve you from here? I have money for the poor. I have power. I have influence. I’ll use them for your glory. I promise.” There’s no doubt in my mind I would have hung on.

But Moses didn’t. Considering the reward much greater than the cost, he gave it all up. And he did so by faith. (Hebrews 11:24 – The same way we’re to do it.) Taught by his parents, grandparents, siblings, or maybe God himself, Moses took God at his word and believed it.

You know who else exchanged affluence for affliction? Jesus. “Who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7).

Humbling himself he exchanged the throne for a stable, the royal robes of heaven for some simple swaddling, the brilliance of glory for no form of majesty, the table of heaven for a seat with commoners, the praise of angels for the rejection of men, a crown of splendor for that of thorns, fellowship with God for the wrath of sin. Obedient to the point of death, that we might live.

How’d he do it? Much the same as Moses. He looked ahead. He looked to God. He looked to heaven. Enduring the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2).

Handing the hope of heaven to us who can’t get there. Weaving grace into the fabric of human hearts. Offering peace and reconciliation to a people apart from God. Giving us who come with nothing of eternal value, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:3) And an inheritance we can’t even fathom.

“But as it is written in the Scriptures: “No one has ever seen this. No one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (Is. 64:4, ICB).

It’s too great. Too wonderful for us to wrap around. Take beauty and go a step further. Take marvelous and magnify it. Take superb and marry it to delightful and you’ve got a small piece of our future in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, we can let go. We can sacrifice. Whether it simply be time or money or the life we thought we wanted. The way we thought things would be. The dream we felt sure we needed. The career. The plan. Or the life of ease and convenience we’ve grown comfortable in.

We can humble ourselves. We can be obedient to the call of God, even if it means running in a direction the world never would. Keeping before us the reproach of Christ, because the reward is far greater than the cost. The Savior far greater than the sacrifice.

Moses gave up much to gain more. And because of his willingness he experienced an intimacy with Christ so spectacular his face radiated with God’s glory. (I want that.)

But it took time. And a path he never expected. Are you willing? If and when God calls us to let go, let’s do so in faith my friend, for the riches of our King are far greater than that of this kingdom. And the surpassing worth of experiencing Christ a treasure like none other.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7).

In obedience we gain immeasurably more than we could ever lose. Be faithful my friend, be faithful.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Have you been busy counting the cost or the reward? I often get caught up in the cost. What is God calling you to let go of today? Are you willing?

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When the Place We’re in Makes No Sense

A testament to God’s sovereignty often includes two words: perfect timing. A check arrived in the mail the day before rent was due. A friend showed up at the exact moment needed. A phone call seconds before it was too late. A stranger who asks if they can pray for you. A note of encouragement when you needed one most. A verse at just the right time.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:5-10
Key Verse: “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” Isaiah 14:24


And we think “Wow. That was either a crazy coincidence or that was God.” But based on the Scripture before us, I’m going to say it was God. The LORD of heaven and earth, who is before all things, and through whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17).

He alone holds wisdom in his hand – giving it to those who ask (James 1:5). He alone changes the seasons and removes kings from leadership and sets up new ones (Daniel 2:20-21). He alone laid the foundation of the earth, marked off it’s measurements, and prescribed limits to the ocean saying, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:4-11).

He doesn’t just orchestrate events here and there – He orchestrates life. As he did in countless stories of the Bible – including this one. The account of Moses birth, his nail biting jaunt down the river, his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter, and his upbringing in the palace.

It wasn’t an accident the princess walked down to the Nile to bathe when she did. It wasn’t just perfect timing, though the timing was indeed perfect. Nor was it luck that she felt compassion for Moses.

It was God.

She knew her father’s orders. She knew the baby was to die, yet without hesitation the princess set in motion a plan to keep the child for herself. In all honesty, it makes no sense. If she had wanted a child, I’m sure she could have found an Egyptian baby. One of noble status. After all, she was daughter of Pharaoh, say the word and it was hers.

Yet she found a circumcised slave child, in a basket, in the river, and chose him.

Did she find it odd that a young Hebrew girl was close at hand, privy to the entire scene? After all, the princess was either bathing or about to. She could have been mad. “What are you doing here?” She could have ordered the young girl questioned. But instead she listened to her and allowed her to fetch a wet nurse for the hungry child. Another coincidence? I don’t think so.

But the sovereign hand of God did not stop there. Giving Jochebed the opportunity to nurse her son, gave Moses connection with his people. We aren’t told how often he got to visit his mama, or at what point he understood his story. But according to Exodus 2:11 when he grew up, he knew who his people were, despite his Egyptian upbringing.

Which we know little about, other than the fact he was instructed in all things Egypt and “mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). In other words, he went to school. He learned to read and write and communicate and be a leader. All things that would come in handy for the man God planned to use to write the first 187 chapters of the Bible and lead his people out of Egypt (see Num. 33:2; Joshua 8:31; John 5:46; 2 Cor. 3:15)

But my favorite part is that Pharaoh housed, fed, nurtured, provided, taught, and educated the very man God would use to bring about the very thing Pharaoh was trying to prevent – a massive Israelite escape. An awesome display of God’s sovereign hand at work!

It wasn’t by accident or chance or consequence that Moses ended up in the palace. It was God’s plan, to prepare Moses for the works he prepared in advance for him to do. Sound familiar? Ephesians 2:10 says it works the same way for us too!

So when we end up in a place we didn’t expect or a situation we hadn’t anticipated, we can relax knowing God’s got a plan. And maybe, just maybe that thing that’s taking forever, that issue we never expected, that fork in the road, that mishap or misfortune is the very thing God’s going to use to prepare us for a ministry, a life, an impact far more fulfilling than we ever could have imagined.

Beloved, with God on the throne, the place we’re in has purpose.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” If this is true (and we know it is because it’s the living breathing word of God) then we can relax. Apart from sin, the place we’re in has purpose. And even then God can use our mess ups. (Can I get an amen?)

Nothing happens without God’s eye upon it. Without his knowing. His purpose always prevails. “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).

What probably felt like terrible timing to Jochebed – a baby boy born under a death sentence, was actually God’s perfect timing.

So take heart, lean not on your own understanding and trust the LORD. Because the same sovereign God who ruled then, still rules today. Therefore, we can know, the place we’re in has purpose.

Contemplate and Evaluate
What does the fact that God is sovereign mean for you today?
How might God be preparing you or using you, as you wait or walk the path you’re on right now?

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This Week I’m Thankful for the Hard and Here’s Why

There’s an age old question: How could a good God let bad things happen? It just doesn’t make any sense to us. It feels incongruent because good and bad don’t go together. Yet there’s no way around the fact that God allows, and at times even ordains, both (Isaiah 45:7).


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 1
Key Verse: “When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:27b, NLT)


The first chapter of Exodus places a similar question before us: What kind of a God would let his chosen people be slaves in a foreign land for not just one or ten or fifteen years, but four hundred long, hot years? We’re talking generations who experienced nothing but brutal slavery while the iniquities (sins) of the Amorites and Perizzites and all the other “ites” in the land of Canaan rose to a level in God’s eyes that warranted destruction. (Gen. 15:13-14; Deut. 7:1-2)

Because that was the deal, do you remember? God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but He wouldn’t destroy the peoples of Canaan without just cause. Without time to repent of their wickedness. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” He is a gracious God.

Yet on the flip side, he willingly enslaved His chosen people, not just allowing them to be treated harshly but planning for it. Psalm 105:25 says, “He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” 

The Pharaoh who first oppressed the Hebrews likely rose to power about eighty years after Joseph’s death. A foreigner – he cared nothing for Egypt’s history or a Hebrew governor named Joseph who died before he was even born.

He just wanted to be sure the growing people group in the Negev didn’t escalate to numbers that might pose a threat to his reign. And the best way to do that – keep them busy. Really busy. Afflicting them with heavy burdens like building storehouses for Pharaoh called Pithom and Raamses (v. 11).

Verse 14 goes on to say the Egyptians “made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.”

Day after day they got up and felt the whip of slavery on their back, thirsting for not just water but freedom. Yet in spite of the injustice upon them – they multiplied. They fell in love. They married. Men went home after long exhausting days and loved their wives. And women in turn came alongside their husbands and they had families.

The people increased greatly – growing “exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” (v. 7), much to the dismay of Pharaoh, who decided to take an even more extreme approach when he realized the people were still increasing.

He called Shiphrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives, and explained, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but it if is a daughter, she shall live” (v. 16).

But they wouldn’t do it. Fearing God more than man, they let every new baby breath life. And as a result, God rewarded them with families of their own.

Yet He didn’t make the problem go away. He didn’t instantaneously strike Pharaoh down for such a grossly detestable idea. He let him live and since the midwives couldn’t get it done pharoah instructed the Egyptians to take on the task. “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (v. 22).

I almost can’t even think of it – the smell and feel of my own newborns always just one lucid memory away. Inviting me to recall the sweetness of their small innocent frames.Their button noses. Their milk white puckered lips.

I shudder at the realization this was not a bad dream these sweet mama’s woke up from, but a nightmare they lived through. Their babies, their little ones, their sweet boys ripped from their arms and tossed into a river as though they were nothing.

Why LORD? Why did it have to be that hard? Why must life be that unfair? Why must we go through things that shatter our already tired and tattered hearts into even tinier pieces?

Couldn’t it be easier? It could. But here’s what I’ve realized: It’s only in the grip of great need, that we begin to grasp the expanse of a great God.

Just think for a moment – If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t know God as Healer (Ex. 15:26). If we didn’t have needs, we wouldn’t know God as Provider (Gen. 22:14).  If we didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t know him as powerful. And if we didn’t have worries, we wouldn’t know him as the God of Comfort.

If we could walk through every inch of life on our own, we’d never know He was willing to carry us (Deut. 1:31). If we could fight all of our own battles, we’d never know He was willing to fight on our behalf (Ex. 14:14). If we were never thirsty, we’d have no idea how satisfying He really is (Ps. 107:9).

And if the Israelite’s hadn’t been enslaved, they’d never have known God as Redeemer. Nor experienced a rescue beyond anything the world had ever seen then or now. A rescue that symbolizes the life of every believer – once enslaved to sin, but set free through Jesus Christ.

Why does God sometimes allow the hard?  So we can get to know the Healer.

Because there’s simply nothing better than knowing Him. A God who is good and right and perfect. Who’s just in all He does. Whose greatness is unsearchable. Whose understanding is beyond measure. A hiding place for the wounded and a shield to the faithful – he is the LORD and there is no other.

Ezekiel 34:27b says, “When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD.” (NLT)

Sometimes it’s hard my friend, not because God doesn’t love us or forgot about us or turned his back for a few minutes, but so we will will know and experience beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is the LORD.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What difficult circumstances has God used to reveal himself to you?
If you’re going through a tough time right now, how might these insights change your perspective?

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It’s week one of a year long study through Exodus. If you haven’t signed up to receive Deeper Devos in your e-mail, please do so! And do me a favor: tell a friend! It thrills me beyond words when you share Deeper Devos with others. Thank you! Until next week, Stacey