God’s Presence Helps Me Rest
What does God provide during deployment that reminds us of his presence?
This week in our journey with Moses and the children of Israel, we read about several ways the Lord provided for them to rest. God used friends to help Moses when he was tired and volunteers to help when he was overworked. Explore as a group the many ways God provides during deployment that allow us to rest in His provisions.
About This Journey
Deployment can leave those at home feeling like we’re alone in the wilderness. When we live in the presence of God, we are never on our own. In “Deployed Not Despondent”, we journey through Exodus to help us recognize God’s activity around us and to see deployment through a lens of blessing and gratitude.
This Week's Readings
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.-Exodus 16:4
Above the dining table in my childhood home hung a print titled “Grace.” The picture shows an elderly man bowing his head over a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup. It’s from a photograph taken by Eric Enstrom of Bovey, Minnesota, during World War I for a photography convention. His goal was to communicate that even though people had to go without many things because of the war, they still had many reasons to give thanks.
My favorite part of the photo story is Enstrom’s description of Charles Wilden, the peddler who became the subject of the photograph. “To bow his head in prayer seemed to be characteristic of the elderly visitor, for he struck the pose easily and naturally.” I recall the picture with fondness as it reminds me of God’s faithfulness, not only to meet my daily physical needs, but also to meet my daily spiritual needs.
The Lord taught the Israelites on their journey. At this point in the expedition, they were getting hungry. In yet another miracle, God provided for them in an unprecedented way by presenting them with bread from heaven. They dubbed the strange substance “manna,” which loosely translated is “whatchamacallit.” Each day they would rise and the manna would be waiting for them. They were to gather enough for that day and there was always enough for everyone. It was a daily reminder that God’s presence was with them, as he provided sustaining mercy for them.
Sister, God’s sustaining mercy is there for you each day as well. The manna gathered by the Israelites is a spiritual metaphor for how God will feed you with his Word. You need to gather your own “whatchamacallit” every day. You may not know how to expect God to work, but you can expect him to be faithful to meet the needs of the day. In the context of deployment, take a deployment one day at a time, and trust the Lord to provide grace for that day. I do not know about you, but I cannot make it by only going to church or chapel or a Bible study during the week. I need fresh nourishment each day.
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11/Luke 11:3) is a prayer for God to provide spiritual nourishment for the unfolding day. How are you allowing him to do that for you? Can you remember a day when God provided just the right “whatchamacallit” for that day?
Father, I pray you will nourish me with words of faith today. Give me what I need physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to make it through this day. Thank you for your provision. Amen.
A Plan for Rest
And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.-Exodus 16:28-30
Among active-duty military spouses, a 2008 survey by the American Psychiatric Association found that 40 percent believed their husband or wife’s service overseas hurt their own mental health. Approximately 25 percent reported regular problems with sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression.
I found a note I wrote in my journal after spending some time with a group of deployed wives, “The moms with young kids seem worn out. Their kids are winning the battles. Lots of screaming, whining, one little guy was even growling. Lord, give these women the rest they need to face the days ahead.”
Rest is an important and vital activity to God. Even he rested! “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2).
Rest was important enough for God to build it into the schedule for the Israelites on their journey. On the sixth day of each week, God provided enough manna so they did not need to gather it on the Sabbath. This is the plan of a God who cares about his people getting needed rest.
God gave us the model to prepare ahead of time in order to take time to rest. I do not know about you, but the thing that most often robs me of rest is worry. Yet, I read about the provision God made for the Israelites and I ask how can I fret about the future when I know a God who makes such specific ahead-of-time plans?
Quickly write a list of all the things that worry you and rob you of rest. Done? Okay, make that list your prayer list. Ask the Lord to work in each of those situations and to allow you to rest.
Lord, “Lay your peace like a blanket over me and as I sleep I will rest in you.” Amen. (From “Tonight” by All Sons and Daughters)
Grumbling – Second Verse Same as the First
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”-Exodus 17:3-6a
Here it is again: grumbling. For the Israelites, it was not the first time and it certainly would not be the last. They sang another verse of “the grumbling in the desert song.” In fact, grumbling became a recurring theme in their journey, like the song that never ends. Even with the miracles God did for them, they continued to question God’s faithfulness.
God’s response to the Israelites is astounding. God did not say, “I heard all this before, so I’m not listening again.” No, he said, “I have heard this before and I see you are still struggling. Let me give you water out of a rock.” He did not reward their grumbling, but he had compassion on them. He understood the exodus out of Egypt had turned their lives upside down and they were in new territory with many uncertainties and questions. God understood their human nature and his mercy prevailed.
On this side of history, it is easy to judge the Israelites until I hear myself singing the second verse of my grumbling song, which is the same as the first. You know what? God understands and his mercy prevails for me as well. Just because I experienced a victory over something last week does not mean I will experience that same victory this week. Israel grumbled because they did not see their problem of thirst as a spiritual problem. I grumble because I do not see many of my daily issues as spiritual problems.
In the book of Philippians, Paul addressed the issue of grumbling when he gave the instructions: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). The phrase “all things” means just what it says.
The antidote for grumbling is gratitude. Take a few moments to list things or people for which you are grateful. Choose to sing a song of gratitude today.
Today, use your gratitude list to offer thanksgiving to God.
Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.-Exodus 17:11-13
Last week, I had one of those “feeling overwhelmed by life” days. It felt like the world was on my shoulders and, like Moses, I felt that all would be lost if my bone-tired arms let down. Do you know such days? Your husband is the one deployed, but you are the one who is battle weary. When you are weary from sleeplessness, anxiety, responsibility, or just hard work, even the smallest thing can quickly escalate to feel like a major battle that could be lost at any moment.
In Exodus 17, the Israelites encountered a frightening threat. This time it was not food or water; it was a live and fully armed enemy. The Amalekites were a group of nomads that roamed the desert and harassed anyone who came near their turf. They were a tough and aggressive force. The only way to defeat such an enemy was with the help of God. Moses standing on a hill as the mediator of God’s divine power is quite a picture. When Moses raised his arms with his staff in hand, the Israelites were in control of the battle, but when Moses’ arms were tired and started to drop, the Amalekites would gain momentum.
There was no magic in Moses’ arms. Ultimately, the battle belonged to the Lord. He brought victory as Moses stood with arms outstretched. But God used others to give physical and spiritual help to Moses in the battle. Aaron and Hur gave support, a term meaning to strengthen somebody else.
We need people who are strong when we are weak. When our personal endurance is in short supply, we need the help and support of others. May I tell you that it is okay to be weak sometime? Allow others to help you during times of weariness.
I am guilty of thinking I have to always be strong for others, that I have to do things for myself, that I must hide my insecurities. These things lead to isolation, loneliness, exhaustion, and defeat. As hard as it is, I am learning to be more vulnerable during my times of weakness. When I felt overwhelmed last week, I sent a text to a friend and asked for prayer. Just now, as I approached writing this waypoint, I received a text from her: “I am praying for you today. As you allow God to fill you with his strength, he will enable you for the moment. Just confront this moment with the resources he places in your hand.”
My friend lives in another city. She does not know the details of my struggle. Yet, she held up my hands through prayer and words of encouragement.
Sister, who is holding up your arms today? Whose arms are you upholding?
How have you experienced help from friends during times of weakness? How can we provide such support for others?
Lord, just as you were present to help the Israelites fight their battles, you are present to help me fight mine. Remind me that I do not have to fight alone. Make me willing to share my needs with others and help me be available to help others. Amen.
A Little Help
Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.“-Exodus 18:17-18
If money were no object, which tasks would you hire out and which ones would you want to do yourself? Such a list will look different for each person. For most of us, money is a limited resource. However, the list you made can be a guide for where to look for a little help. Have you considered some creative ways to make that happen?
If you are a mom, you probably would enjoy having some help with your kids. Fortunately, there are positive activities for your kids such as the Awana youth program, a military chapel youth program like Club Beyond, scouting, youth center sports, and shared co-op childcare. Such activities can benefit your child, and create a little respite time for you. If the father-in-law of Moses were here, he would encourage you to take advantage of such things and enjoy a little time for yourself.
The military also offers assistance in other areas to include help with filing taxes, legal assistance, and career guidance. Counseling is available through military chaplains and Military OneSource. Honestly, there is no reason for you to go through a deployment depending only on your own resources.
We are all different in what we are able to handle, but we are all the same in our need to experience some margin and personal space. We need to take a lesson from Moses who thought it was easier to just do things alone. Yes, sometimes that is easier, but sometimes it is an excuse to try to stay in control of a situation.
The bottom line is if Moses—a called-by-God leader who God often filled with supernatural powers—needed some help, maybe you do too. Moses needed help when his personal resources were not enough to be effective. He needed a process to keep the work and responsibility from backing up and to avoid becoming inefficient. He stayed busy and always had something to do, but he was not doing it in the most efficient manner.
There are many tasks you must do, but you do not have to do everything yourself. Consider taking some time to tap into other resources and set priorities. Moses heeded his father-in-law’s advice and started to take only the most important cases.
What resources are available to you during deployment? How are you using resources available to you?
Lord, you never sleep, and you are always there for me. Help me be willing to ask for help, seek out help, and accept help during times when I feel overwhelmed. I cast all my anxiety on you because you care for me. Guide my steps today. Amen.
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