God’s Presence Helps Me Sing
How can we celebrate in the midst of deployment?
The Bible records a lot about singing. This week you read about the children of Israel leaving Egypt and the songs that mark each important event. Songs in Scripture are about what God has done for his people, filled with thanksgiving and wonder of God’s might and power. Together, learn how singing helps express and process emotional pain to bring us to a point of praise.
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
Cloudy with a Chance of Guidance
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.-Exodus 13:21-22
Cloudy days are reason enough for me to stay in my pajamas and curl up on the couch for a Netflix marathon. I do not need any other excuse. I can use clouds as a reason to put off errands that I need to do, and even cancel appointments that have been on the books for months. I can let lingering clouds affect my emotions. The longer they hang around, the darker my mood can grow.
As I read Exodus, I noticed that clouds did not bring about depression, excuses, or binge TV watching. In fact, when you see the word cloud, you can bet that God’s presence is in or near that cloud. This discovery is making me view cloudy days through a different lens.
The Israelites may not have known where they were as they traveled in the wilderness, but they did have a guide. The Lord provided them with shade from a pillar of cloud by day and light from a pillar of fire by night. Whenever and wherever the cloud moved, they were to follow. Knowing where they were going was less important than knowing who they were following. The cloud was a physical sign of the Lord’s presence. He did not leave them, day or night. His presence was to show them the way. If they kept their eyes fixed on the cloud, they would not be lost.
What triggers you to experience a dark day? Why is knowing where you are going less important than knowing whom you are following? Write out Hebrews 12:2 and put it in a place to remind you of the need to keep your eyes on Jesus:
…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1–2, NLT)
Lord, set my spiritual compass toward you. Help me see your presence even on the cloudiest of days. Amen.
Shut Up and Stand Up
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly.
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”-Exodus 14:10a, 13-14
I know this waypoint carries a bold title, but in essence, this is what God, through Moses, said to the Israelites. God was not speaking to comfort troubled, anxious hearts. No, he spoke to motivate weak, pathetic faith. God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt because he heard their cry for help and deliverance. They did not get very far before they lifted different cries.
It is easy for me to identify with the Israelites. Put me in a precarious situation and my imagination can take off in all kinds of unhealthy directions. I then just need a swift kick in the rear to help me get a grip and to jolt me into reality, as Moses did by telling the Israelites to “stand firm and shut up!”
Here is the twist: The Israelites were afraid of the Egyptians. These were the same Egyptians the Israelites lived with and around for hundreds of years. The Israelites may have felt anger and frustration toward their taskmasters, but never this kind of fear. Why? They had never seen the Egyptians come against them as a hostile army. They knew the sting of their whips, but now they faced the point of their spears.
All of a sudden, the Israelites viewed themselves as weak in the face of the Egyptian army who could destroy them. The Egyptians did not present themselves as such a threat until the Israelites deployed out of Egypt.
Sister, do you see the connection? Challenges present themselves in a different way during this season of deployment. Existing situations may now become threats as they awaken weakness. Some of your same may begin to look very different during deployment.
You may have experienced anxiety, temptation, or feelings of hopelessness before, but deployment can make them look darker, and more difficult to overcome. The circumstances at home and your surroundings may not have changed, but they can present in a different way because of your husband’s absence. Guard yourself against thin-skinned faith and know the Lord can fight for you. Just as he drowned the Egyptian threat, he can drown the anxiety that can control you, the temptation that can destroy you, and the hopelessness that can defeat you.
I am not going to tell you to shut up, but I am going to encourage you to fear not and stand firm!
How have you experienced your “same” looking “different” during difficult seasons such as deployment? What are some ways you can guard against “thin-skinned faith?”
Help me to be strong and courageous. Deliver me from fear and discouragement. Remind me that you are my God and you are with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9). Amen.
The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”-Exodus 14:15-18
I do not swim well. In a pool, I stay close to the edge so I can quickly grab it if I feel like I might sink. That edge means safety to me.
I wonder how many of the Israelites could not swim well. The Israelites faced the challenge of walking through walls of water with no edge to hold on to and no defensive shield to hold the water back. My response would be: Push me, carry me, or knock me out, then tell me when we are on the other side.
I have felt overwhelmed when my husband has been deployed. On those days, I wished someone could just knock me out and revive me when it was over. Melodramatic, yes. Honest, yes. I did not want to think about a tidal wave of loneliness that could crush me, a wave of responsibility that could engulf me, or a tsunami of fear that could overpower me.
You have to sometimes overcome what should be a natural fear. The Israelites did not have to make the entire journey to the Promised Land through walls of water, but the first part of the journey presented a huge challenge. They had to take a step of trust. They faced a legitimate fear. If anyone could stand frozen in fear, it was these sojourners. Except, God was the one who held the walls of water from overtaking them.
Some days of deployment will bring more struggle than other days. The sad truth is that we often bow out of the struggle before we gain the strength that can come from the struggle. Hard things can produce strength, and struggle is an essential ingredient of any forward movement.
Just as the Lord released the water at just the right time to drown the enemies of Israel, he can drown your fears and your discontentment. He can drown anything that may threaten your personal victory in him. With God, you can move forward. Do not abandon the struggle too soon.
What is your natural response to struggle? What are you learning as you ride out the wave of struggle?
Lord, do not let me give up too soon. Help me to persevere through the struggle knowing you are ever present to guide me, sustain me, and help me grow. Amen.
Break Out In Song!
The Song of Moses
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.-Exodus 15:1
Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.-Exodus 15:20
May I tell you a secret? Singing has helped get me through deployment. It is true. I love to sing. I am one of those people who need to carry a sign that reads: Caution! Will Break Out in Song!
However, I did not sing during the early months of my husband’s first deployment. I did not even sing sad songs. Then, one day, while reading Psalm 59, my eyes fell on these words:
But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you.
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.
That same day, after reading this psalm, I contacted a friend who also enjoyed singing. I suggested we get together and sing! We pulled a couple of other deployed spouses in with us. Before that deployment was over, our little group sang in chapel and at a couple of formal military events. Singing became a type of celebration for what God had done, what he was doing, and what he was going to do in our lives. Personally, singing helped me keep my focus on God and gave voice to my faith and hope.
The songs of Moses and Miriam gave voice to the faith of the Israelites. They celebrated the end of their captivity, but they also celebrated the hope of what was to come. I smile when I read of Miriam teaching the song of praise to all the women. The journey was not over; in fact, it had just started, but they sang a song of celebration.
Sister, do not miss the importance of celebration. Celebrate every victory. Build celebration into your schedule. You made it through the first day of deployment—celebrate! You made it through the first month of deployment—celebrate! You ate one piece of chocolate cake instead of the whole cake—celebrate!
Oh, there will be a celebration when your husband gets off the plane, but until then, sing in the face of fear and declare hope and trust for the future.
So sing, sister, sing! Sing in the shower. Sing in your car. Sing and be reminded that God is your fortress, is your refuge, and daily shows you his steadfast love!
Listen to a song that uplifts you and whether you can carry a tune or not, sing along!
“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord” (Psalm 104:33–34). Amen.
When the Song Becomes a Grumble
Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”-Exodus 15:22-24
Wait a minute. Hold the presses. Didn’t we just make a big deal about singing and celebrating? Forget about my tendency to do a quick about face from singing to grumbling; what about God’s chosen people? God just delivered these folks from slavery and then brought them face to face with a water wall miracle. Do you find it ironic that these folks grumbled over water when they just saw what God did with an entire sea?
We often describe times of difficulty, discouragement, or spiritual dryness as a desert place. We may have just experienced a spiritual high, only to come face to face with the frustrations of life. I can personally testify that my most common response in these times is to complain and question God’s goodness. Complain sounds so much better than grumble, right? Grumbling was also the response of the Israelites when their circumstances did not match up to their expectations.
Here is the thing: complaining is not necessarily a bad thing. Corporations, businesses, and even the military have systems in place to receive complaints in order to make improvements in their practice. However, the complaints of the Israelites had nothing to do with a desire to make things better. The complaints that came from their mouths were indicative of the lack of faith in God found in their hearts. Theirs was rebellious complaining.
Sister, do not miss the profound lesson in the simple way this situation was resolved. Are you paying attention? Do you hear a drum roll? Here it is: The solution came in a simple piece of wood. Read it for yourself: “And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet” (Exodus 15:25a).
The answer to their complaints was right there all the time. They just needed the Lord to show them.
I don’t know about you, but I would trip over that log. I would walk around that log. I might even pick it up and try to use it for decoration. I would not think to use it to change my circumstances. Without the Lord, the log would have just been a piece of wood on the path. With the Lord, the log became a means to bring refreshment.
When complaint moves to grumbling, it indicates my lack of faith in God to bring about a solution. Grumbling is a product of looking at my circumstances instead of looking to God. Desert places can test my faith and obedience, but God will guide me if I listen to him and walk in obedience to his commands (Exodus 15:26).
Think back through the past day and week and evaluate your attitude. Where would you fall on the grumble-meter if one is few grumble words and ten is many grumble words? What causes you to grumble? What might be the antidote for grumbling?
Lord, guard my mouth from grumbling. Guard my heart from begrudging. Guard my soul from withering. Amen.
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