What is your worst fear? Maybe it’s a frightening diagnosis. Maybe a pile of bills you don’t know how you’ll pay. A child you have not spoken to in months and you don’t even know where they are or you know exactly where they currently lie in a hospital bed and you doubt they’ll ever come back home. Maybe it’s that nagging feeling that something has gone wrong in your marriage and your worst fear of abandonment looms large. Maybe it’s a computer screen that won’t leave you alone in the wee hours of the night while you struggle to remain faithful. Our enemy taunts us with these fears, with larger-than-life problems that we cannot wish away. How can God be good in the midst of them?
Moses’ worst fear comes true in Exodus 33. God suggests He may abandon His people. After Aaron constructed the golden calf and the people engaged in revelry and worshiped it, the Lord’s anger burned intensely. Instead of personally going with them into the promised land, He would send an angel to guide and protect them to ensure His wrath would not break out against them, destroying them on the way. When the people of Israel heard this, they mourned greatly. Moses, however, completely freaks out.
Moses already begged God to “blot me out of your book that you have written” (Ex. 32:32) if He would not forgive them for the golden calf incident. In case you don’t speak ancient Hebrew, that’s the equivalent of “Just take my life. I’d rather die.” Moses is at his breaking point. He simply cannot take one more step without God’s assurance. He told Him,
“If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” —Exodus 33:15–16
Moses is at his wit’s end knowing that if God ceases leading, Moses will surely be inadequate on his own and the entire deliverance operation will fail. He cries out to God for answers, begging Him to stay.
In this discourse we can see several aspects of God’s character of which Moses is confident: He is powerful and purposeful. He subdues His enemies. He has given Moses His favor. But there are some things of which Moses remains unsure. Can God be trusted not to abandon him? Moses knows God holds the power to make good on His promises to bring the people into the promised land, but he struggles to trust that God will be good on their behalf. He knows what God can do, but he needs assurance of what God is like. Moses begs Him, “Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18).
“The hand of God cradles us.”
God’s glory is simply the essence of His character. Oh, the tenderness of God in this moment! He could have answered Moses simply and in straightforward facts: I am Lord. I am good, and merciful and gracious. I brought you out of Egypt. I destroyed your enemies before you. I fed you in the wilderness. I miraculously provided water.
But He offers Moses so much more. “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’” (Ex. 33:19a). Let’s just pause right there for a moment and feebly try to imagine that. All God’s goodness passing before us at once. All. Of. It. I can’t even.
And God reminds Moses of His Name: Yahweh. The Lord. The God who creates, the God who enters relationship. To hear the very voice of God speaking His divine essence and purpose. Pardon me while I shake off the shivers. Moses, I created you to be in relationship with Me. There is no part of Me but goodness. I created you to show you all of My goodness. I will never leave you or forsake you.
In many ways this demonstrates a tremendous breakthrough moment for Moses. He has given up the lie that he needs to be the one who is adequate enough to bring the people into the promised land. It’s not about him reaching a certain height in leadership and being good enough. He still needed to understand the depths of God’s character. Could he really trust the goodness of this God in whom he had placed all of his hope?
How about you and me? Can we confidently say as David did, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”? (Ps. 27:13). Are we certain of God’s goodness? Or do we struggle to believe His promises to never abandon us and to always be good on our behalf? Unlike Moses, we have God’s Word to daily display His goodness to His people throughout decades and even millennia.
But I love how in Moses’ deepest desperation, God did not just proclaim His goodness and tell Moses to take His word for it. God in His great mercy displayed His goodness right before Moses’ weary eyes. He tucked Moses away and tenderly covered his eyes, washing all of His goodness over Moses’ dry and brittle heart, removing His touch only to allow Moses to see His majesty. I find this reassurance from God to Moses so beautiful in the wake of Aaron’s deep betrayal. Surely Moses needed to know there was One who would never lie or leave. There was nothing left for Moses to do. No striving or conniving. Just surrender. He needed only for God to arrive and reveal His goodness to him.
When our worst fear comes true, we often cannot see how to move forward, and we may even wish for death. We too beg God to show us His goodness. Maybe it will come in the kindness of a friend. Maybe it will be a fresh wind of God’s grace and mercy giving us strength to go on in the middle of “whys.” A time out in a quiet place where we experience God’s tender touch. Or in revisiting an old familiar Bible story that reminds us of our God
Our God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. We never need to fear His abandonment. He is the same God who is walking with you and me today—all the way to victory. Even in the dark hours of midnight stumbling through life as our worst fear flashes us in the face.
Jesus shared a parable with His disciples about a need at midnight. A man discovered he would soon have a guest arriving in the middle of the night. With nothing to serve, the man panicked. Failing to offer a meal no matter the hour of arrival amounted to ultimate shame—toward the guest, on the host, and the village at large for failing to offer proper hospitality. The host runs next door to his neighbor, pounding on the door in the wee hours of the night.
“When our worst fear comes true, we often cannot see how to move forward, and we may even wish for death.”
Jesus presents a plot twist. The shameful neighbor does the unthinkable. He denies him. Sends him home empty-handed with no regard for his plight. Jesus’ audience assuredly gasped over such selfish behavior. As Americans we balk at the host’s audacity, while Jesus’ audience would have shuddered in shame over the neighbor’s utter disregard for social expectations. The entire village would be shamed for this, not just the individual.
Jesus’ point? Of course, a neighbor would answer the door! Of course, the neighbor would aid in offering hospitality! And what is the context in Jesus teaching this parable? Prayer. The disciples asked Jesus about prayer. How they ought to pray. And while Jesus modeled the Lord’s prayer for them after their request, He followed it up with this story. He wanted them to grasp the heart of the One whom they supplicated. Prayer offers an invitation for divine intervention and God will always RSVP. He would never turn them away in their moment of desperation. Even at midnight.
Jesus followed this story with stunning questions.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” —Luke 11:11–13
The Holy Spirit. The Comforter. The Guide. The Helper. The One who shines light upon our shuddering circumstances, providing wisdom and strength to help us in our time of need. Cindy felt entirely alone. Moses felt alone. When our worst fear unfolds, we feel alone. But we will never walk alone. Not one single step. In the dead of night when the darkness envelops, threatening to steal from within us our very last breath, even then the light of Christ illumines us. The hand of God cradles us. The goodness of God passes in front of us like a gentle breeze bringing breath back into our lungs. And maybe in that moment, all we can do is breathe and wait for Jesus’ arrival. But He will always open the door of His perfect provision and provide what we need.
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,...
Sign up for learning delivered to your inbox weekly