I begin this devotional by confessing that I struggle with claustrophobia. It has gotten noticeably worse as I have aged. Mine manifests itself in a fear of being trapped, rather than a fear of small spaces. This became very evident on a trip to Paris several years ago when I descended to the basement level of a charming restaurant in search of a ladies’ room. The restroom ended up being dark and tiny, as those places tend to be, but that was fine … right up until the point when I tried to leave and discovered that the door handle wouldn’t move. It was amazing how the room grew smaller and smaller, like the time that Luke, Leia, and Hans got trapped in the trash compactor in Star Wars. I swear I saw the dark tiled walls closing in around me.
I had walked down three passages to find this place, so I knew its remote location was not in my favor. As the reality of my entrapment became more and more evident, panic took over and I found myself banging on the door and yelling in broken French (maybe it was Spanish?) for someone to come save me. Eventually a waiter came by and began to yell instructions (in French, of course … not helpful) to stop yanking on the door handle so that he could fix it. He used a screw driver to get the door open, making me think that this had happened before. I emerged exhausted, sweaty, and very grateful to see the annoyed, eye-rolling waiter.
Have you ever found yourself in a horrible situation where you could not find a way out? A relationship, a job, a marriage, a terminal illness, an addiction, a family situation … we can get stuck in situations where we don’t think there is any way to escape. Like people on a crowded elevator stuck between floors, we feel paralyzed by circumstances beyond our control and lose sight of which way is up or down. Hopelessness and panic easily set in when you can’t find your way out of a bad scenario. I have been there and I imagine you have, too.
Several of my friends are stuck between floors right now. One is newly divorced and one is newly widowed. One is dealing with a son’s addition. They all feel trapped in their sadness and are having a hard time imagining that life will feel better.
God is the great way-maker, and he desires to “un-stick” us when we feel hopeless.
Isaiah 53 (Common English Bible)
The Lord says—who makes a way in the sea
and a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
army and battalion;
they will lie down together and will not rise;
they will be extinguished, extinguished like a wick.
Isaiah recounts the time when God brought Israel out of slavery and hardship in Egypt through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. Pharaoh’s army was in strong pursuit, but God caused its chariots, horses, and battalions to get stuck in the mud. God extinguished Israel’s pursuers as easily as one extinguishes a candle wick. He will do that for you as well.
18 Don’t remember the prior things;
don’t ponder ancient history.
19 Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.
This is the best and the hardest part of the teaching today. God’s instruction is to not remember the prior things, and to stop dwelling on ancient history so that you can focus on the new thing he is doing. When we are stuck, the “prior things” are all we can see. When those things bring up feelings of fear, anguish, and despair, God desires for us to wait and watch him make a way in the desert of our hopelessness.
20 The beasts of the field,
the jackals and ostriches, will honor me,
because I have put water in the desert
and streams in the wilderness
to give water to my people,
my chosen ones,
21 this people whom I formed for myself,
who will recount my praise.
God is our great way-maker. No matter what the circumstance, he works to free us from our situation so that we can find the streams of hope in the desert of life. He will work to open up the snare that is caught around your ankle so that you can walk in freedom toward a new and different future.
Are you stuck right now? Ask God to come and unlock your chains. Our great Way-Maker is able and ready.