When God Doesn’t Make Sense: Obstacles
Let’s talk about “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” And let’s see what this might have to do with the current coronavirus situation. For the last three weeks we have been looking at things that God does or doesn’t do that just don’t make sense to us.
So far we have looked at why God says “no,” no to seemingly good things in life, oftentimes though because they’re not so good for us after all. And last week we looked at why God allows people to suffer and die, a difficult topic, but one that can lead us into a deeper understanding of Jesus’ Cross, his passion, his death, and his incredible resurrection.
If you missed those homilies, or you know someone who needs to hear them, you can find them on our website: saintmary.life
Today we are looking at the times God seems to put obstacles in our way. We may feel like there are times when it feels like God is just making our life difficult. It seems obvious that if God would just remove our obstacles, then life would be much better.
Maybe for you it’s an obstacle in your professional life. You know, you have a system’s problem at work that you can’t seem to solve. Or you have a personnel problem. You keep trying to hire the right people but can’t seem to.
You may have a relational obstacle. You and your spouse would have a much stronger marriage, but your in-laws constantly get in the way, or there is some issue you keep returning to over and over again as a couple.
Your obstacle may be a health problem. If you weren’t sick you could accomplish more, and enjoy life so much more. Maybe your health problem is living in fear of coronavirus.
To help us explore this topic about God and obstacles, we are looking at today’s first reading. You know the story. God sees the suffering of his people and sends Moses to challenge the Egyptian Pharaoh to let his people go. Pharaoh refuses. God sends plagues. Pharaoh finally relents, and lets the people go.
That’s where we pick up the story today. The people were camped, and surprise, there was no water to drink. You know that feeling. You have an expectation, and it isn’t met. At that moment it is very difficult to take the disappointment graciously. It’s great when you do, but sometimes it is very hard to do.
Therefore the people find fault with Moses. They blame him for their lack of water. Rather than being patient with him or asking how they can help, they become demanding. They do not have a solution-finding spirit.
On one level we can all understand that. If you have a need, and it isn’t being met it is easy to become grouchy, to look for someone to blame. When we have a problem, we don’t look at ourselves; we always want someone else to blame.
So the people murmured against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?”
Murmuring is an expression of ingratitude. It seems natural, which it is. It seems harmless, WHICH IT IS NOT. It’s actually habit forming. It can so easily become a self-defeating habit that is our default response to any situation. Ever meet people like that, they complain about everything, and it makes them very unattractive, but they can’t help it. Complaining has become their habitual response to nearly anything that happens.
So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with these people? They are ready to stone me.” There’s a big difference between Moses’ reaction to this difficult situation and the people’s reaction. While the people complain against God, Moses converses with God and asks for his direction.
There is a significant difference between complaining about someone to another person versus having a conversation with the person who is presenting a challenge. Complaining about someone disrespects the relationship, while having a conversation with someone over an issue honors it by giving the other person an opportunity to respond.
So God told Moses to leave the camp, take only a few elders with him, and strike a rock to receive water. The rest of the people do not get to see this miracle because by their lack of trust, the people had forfeited the right to see God’s work. Moses simply brought along some of the elders, so they could verify what happened.
And Moses named the place Meribah and Massah. Meribah means problems or strife. Massah means testing. Moses chose this name because the people found fault with him, and God, and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
God was testing them. When the journey didn’t go quite as planned, perhaps as they might have hoped, when a difficulty presented itself, the question was would they trust God or just grumble and complain?
They failed the test. They actually tested God as if he needed to prove himself to them. That generation of Israelites never passed the test. They never got over their complaining and so they never got to enter the Promised Land. They never got where God wanted them to be because they could not trust.
What does this say to us in light of our current crisis with the coronavirus? How do we respond to God in a time of crisis like this? Whether a crisis is a test from God or just a test of natural consequences, a crisis is a test of our character, and a crisis is a test of our relationship with God. Do we shake our fist and cry out to him: Lord are you with us or not? Or do we do what he calls us to do ( be smart in a crisis) and trust in him? Do we work with him to help find solutions, or do we complain against him? If we work with him and trust him, we will grow in character and relationship with God and become what he wants us to become.
There are difficulties in life that should be avoided. Take precautions against the coronavirus. There are toxic situations from which you should remove yourself, some battles you can’t win, some relationships that are abusive, some projects that are ultimately useless.
But be careful. Be careful of fleeing a situation just because it is difficult. Some people go from job to job, friendship to friendship, commitment to commitment, because when the going gets tough, they take off. They have no solution-finding spirit.
Nothing worth accomplishing ever comes without obstacles and challenges. That is not bad luck. That’s on purpose. That’s because those obstacles force us to embrace God.
And if we’re willing to embrace God and depend upon his grace, we will see his power just like Moses did. But, if we choose to murmur, to grumble and complain, we will probably miss out on the experience of his power, and we’ll never get where he wants us to go. God isn’t necessarily interested in making your life easier. God’s main concern isn’t always your level of comfort. That’s usually our goal, but not God’s.
The reason God allows obstacles and difficulties is to allow life to test us. This is in order to build our character and relationship with him. He’s interested in building our character because our character is the only thing we get to take to heaven with us. The Lord tests those he loves. Do you feel tested? Maybe that’s not a bad thing.