When We’re Ready to Give Up

“What a week!” I thought as I boarded a five-hour flight from Seattle to Washington DC. I was exhausted after a long week of major donor visits. I had done my best to communicate our needs and secure sufficient funds for our prison ministry efforts around the world—a difficult task. I felt weary and ready to be home, the plane was packed, and wouldn’t you know it . . . I was in the middle seat! Unable to work during the flight, my mind wandered. I thought about Moses and the Israelites during their long trek to the Promised Land.

In Exodus, the Israelites came to the place known as Rephidim. Already weary from their journey and the never-ending complaints, everyone was thirsty and there was nothing to drink. In their impatience, the Israelites were ready to stone Moses—blaming him for their distress. “So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:2–3, NIV).

Rephidim, to me, represents when we come to the end of our own energy and resources. It’s the place where we learn the limits of our own abilities—where only God can fulfill our needs. Here, Moses turns to the Lord and pleads, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And, we see God does fulfill the Israelites’ needs in Exodus 17:4–7 (NIV).

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

As I sat in my cramped middle seat, I realised I spent many days trying to avoid Rephidim. But now, and especially at my weariest, I surrender. God gave the Israelites exactly what they needed, at exactly the right time. And he will do the same for us. No more wandering for me—I think I’ll stay.

Article originally published September 6, 2016, in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI Roundtable.

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