Transitions in life are inevitable: a new home, a different school, various jobs. But even when change is a good thing, its uncertainty can fill us with questions: What will happen? How will I manage? Will I be safe and cared for? Did I make the right decision?
The story of the Exodus explains how the Hebrew people faced an overwhelming change – a good one. They were suddenly released overnight from 430 years of slavery. But soon, their backs were literally between the “devil and the deep blue sea” as they fled to the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit. Though their dream of freedom had come true, the Hebrews were terrified (Exodus 14:10.) What would happen?
Two Certainties During Times of Transition
God did not intend for us to journey without assurance. He answered the Hebrews’ fears with a visible antidote: the pillar of cloud and of fire. “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them in the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light” (Exodus 13:21). The cloud and fire represented God’s presence.
God’s presence provides two certainties during times of transition.
- Guidance. The cloud went before the Hebrews to show the way. When the cloud lifted from its position, it was time for Israel to move. When it stayed settled, the Hebrews remained in camp. The pillar of fire provided light so the people could continue traveling even in the dark of night. Likewise, God’s presence gives us guidance to know when to stay in one place, when to move, where to go – and light for the way, even in times of darkness and struggle.
- Protection. “The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 14:19-20), surrounding the people both at the front and the rear. It served as a 360-degree barrier while the nation crossed the Red Sea and later as they traveled through the desert. How many times following an uncertain season can we trace God’s hand of protection through the change?
First, Look for the Cloud
The cloud remained a constant throughout the Hebrews’ forty-year journey, and the people remained faithful to look for it and follow it, even when they were not satisfied with where it led.
Like them, we are on a lifelong journey. That you will face change along the way is certain.
The only uncertainty swirling around your life’s transitions is this: will you look for God’s presence during that change … or not?
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