Living Faithfully Amid Discouragement and Despair

Erica Wiggenhorn
header for Living Faithfully Amid Discouragement and Despair

If we know the story of Moses’ life, we can certainly see how forty years of shepherding served him well herding the people of Israel through the wilderness. God had purpose even in this path that didn’t make any sense based on Moses’ skill set.

Moses is about to begin adulting. He gets married and settles down. Starts a family. We still see his identity struggle. He names his son Gershom, which in Hebrew means “expulsion” or “resident alien there,”[1] for heaven’s sake. Listen to what he says: “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land” (Ex. 2:22). He lives here, works here, his family is here, but what is Moses still feeling deep down? “I don’t belong here. There’s something else out there, somewhere else I should be.”

Content, But Longing

Maybe you’re near this stage of life. Maybe you’ve chosen the wise or responsible path in life. You forfeited a dream because it felt selfish to pursue it. Taking a steady job or staying home full time felt like a more noble endeavor. And truthfully, any sacrifice we make for the good of those we love should be viewed as such. But maybe you wrestle with the nagging feeling that there is something more for you: deeper, more meaningful relationships, the spouse you’re hoping to find, a new career path or dream to pursue once the kids are more independent. There’s something within you that stirs for something more. But you’re living in Midian. And for now, you are content to dwell there, but inwardly you know you eventually belong somewhere else.

Something else significant is happening here also. Moses is passing his “I don’t fit in anywhere” complex onto his son, reminding him by his name that he isn’t really a Midianite either. We have to face our insecurities and allow God to forge our new identity or we’ll pass down the shackles of self-doubt to the next generation. We’ll live guarded rather than loving generously. We’ll settle for comfortable rather than chase the miraculous. If we live fearing that failure waits around every corner because our script of self-doubt directs our steps, so will our children.

Moses believed he didn’t belong anywhere—neither with the Egyptians nor the Israelites nor the Midianites. And you know what? He was right. He would never be Egyptian. He was not intended to be a Hebrew slave. It was not his future to remain a Midianite shepherd. God’s plan for Moses was for him to be different—set apart. He wasn’t called to be one of the Israelites, he was called to lead the Israelites. He belonged to God. He was called out by God and equipped by God for a unique role and purpose within the history of the world.

And friend, you may not fully believe this yet, but so are you.

We Are Called, No Matter Our Fears of Inadequacy

Moses’ fear of inadequacy may have originated from the lack of belonging he felt in the Egyptian royal court and the rejection he faced from his Hebrew brothers. Or, it’s from his disappointment in fulfilling the nudge he felt in his heart to help deliver them. But God, in His infinite wisdom, placed Moses in those situations to open his eyes to see with whom he actually belonged: God. Every disappointment and rejection drove him to the One who would forever fulfill and accept him as His own.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The disappointments you’ve endured, the rejection you’ve withstood, even the failures you faced . . . they may have led you to inward feelings of self-doubt, but God means them to serve as your road map to Christ. And it’s He in whom all security and sufficiency are ultimately found.

Each one of us as followers of Jesus has been given a unique gift to be employed in good works for our time and place in history. Yet as long as Moses focused on his past failure and his need for acceptance by others, he would never embrace those truths. He would forever feel like a failure and doubt his ability to do what God asked of him. He would choose an easier path and other endeavors rather than the grand adventure God had for him. And friend, so will we if we don’t get serious about understanding our identity and conquering our fear of inadequacy.

Yet even in this place of obscurity and waiting, God was equipping Moses. God knew what He was accomplishing in mundane Midian. Listen to this perspective:

“For 40 years . . . Moses undertook the toilsome life of a sheepherder in the Sinai area, thus gaining valuable knowledge of the topography of the Sinai Peninsula which later was helpful as he led the Israelites in that wilderness land.”[2]

And further, “Egypt accomplished him as a scholar, a gentleman, a statesman, a soldier, all which accomplishments would be afterwards of use to him, but yet he lacked one thing, in which the court of Egypt could not befriend him. He that was to do all by divine revelation must know, by a long experience, what it was to live a life of communion with God; and in this he would be greatly furthered by the solitude and retirement of a shepherd’s life in Midian.”[3]

And friend, can I remind you today, that God knows what He is accomplishing in this season of your life? You may yearn for more. You may feel like an alien in a foreign land, unique, isolated, or alone. The days may feel monotonous, insignificant, or meaningless. You may wonder where you fit and where you belong. But the story of Moses reminds us that God is at work.

Learning in Midian

Midian is the place where we learn to listen. Those haunting echoes of our inadequacy begin to be drowned out by the soothing sounds spoken over us by the Savior as we open His Word, allowing Him to place a new song within our ever-racing minds. Because often when we are in Midian we cannot see how God is working. We are surrounded by duties and our schedule feels too daily. Responsibilities weigh heavy and the horizon looks flat and desolate.

It’s often in faithfully carrying out our responsibilities that God gifts us with meaningful relationships. And while Moses may feel alone in his identity, God was using the time to forge a friendship between Moses and Jethro, his father-in-law, that would have a great effect on his life. We’ll see later how Jethro celebrated with Moses, redirected him when he got overwhelmed, and warned him when he began to make unhealthy choices. It was the dailyness and drudgery of Midian that the early bonds of trust between the two were formed.

Trust Your Identity to God’s Plan

Don’t you find it marvelous how each stage and circumstance in Moses’ life was so perfectly planned and designed to equip him for his unique call? Furthermore, don’t you love how patient God is in preparing us for ours? What Moses still didn’t yet know was that God’s plan for his life was unfolding exactly the way God had intended. From Moses’ limited perspective, he may have thought himself a failure, but from God’s point of view, Moses was positioned exactly where God wanted him.

And so are you. Lean in and listen. Pieces of your past are preparation for the future God has planned for you. The winds of change begin to stir across your desert landscape as the voice of the Almighty speaks new truth about your identity.

[1] John D. Hannah, “Exodus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 1983), 111.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary in One Volume (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), 74.

For Further Reading:

Letting God Be Enough

by Erica Wiggenhorn

Everyone thinks you’ve got it together. But inside, you’re asking, “Am I enough?” No matter how good we look to others,...

book cover for Letting God Be Enough