By Virginia Holmstrom
The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.
Scripture: “The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.” Exodus 14:19 (NRSV)
Sometimes fear overrides faith. We feel abandoned at the moment of peril. Where is God when we most need a protector and savior?
The Hebrew families fleeing Pharoah’s army felt the terror of impending disaster when they stopped short at banks of the Red Sea. The escape route abruptly ended. There was no way forward! The Egyptian army bore toward them from behind. The deep waters in front of them prevented their desperate escape to freedom. Even God had disappeared. The assurance of God’s presence that had remained a step ahead of them in the form of a cloud pillar was no longer in front of them. Pressed between the sea’s edge and the approaching Egyptian army, trembling mothers clutched their children in their arms, the shelter of their embrace no longer a safe zone.
When we feel the dread that God has abandoned us during our most vulnerable moments of peril, we can identify with the Hebrew families, exhausted from their running, hearts pounding, hemmed in between death by weapons and death by drowning. Where is God?
The question haunts me today as I read the news of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar; a half million persons fleeing toward the border to the west, hemmed in between a brutal army pushing them out and a country unwilling to receive them. Where is God in this?
Our faith is tested when the “pillar of cloud” symbolizing God’s presence shifts from our forward view. God’s presence is not always in front of us, God’s escape route not always visible. Let us choose faith that God’s salvation is bigger than the fears of chaos and tyranny. After feeling the panic of the Hebrew families stopped in their tracks by the Red Sea, I feel utter relief when I read the words of their victory song in the next chapter of their story. “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously . . . . In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”
Choose faith over fear. For the final line of the song goes like this: “The Lord will reign forever and ever.” (Exodus 15:18)
Virginia Holmstrom is executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.