It’s a long way up from the Nile delta to the Midian wilderness — about 7,000 feet! Some historians say it would have taken Moses a month to get there on foot as he fled certain death at the hands of Pharaoh, which would have been his punishment for killing an Egyptian.
Ironically, as Moses ascended toward Midian, he descended in the social ranks, from a prince of Egypt to an insignificant shepherd — someone Egyptians at the time would have believed to be beneath dignity. But Moses stood up for another injustice, this time toward someone other than his own people — Midianite shepherd women. Eventually Moses was able to marry and start another life…a life that would become his first forty years in the wilderness.
Though now a foreigner in a foreign land, Moses had already grown up as an outcast in Egypt. His name in Egyptian means “son” but was usually affixed to a father’s name also. But Moses did not know his father, so “Moses” indicates being a son without a father — doubtlessly a source of great pain for him.
Oftentimes, pain leads to one of two basic outcomes. Pain can breed resentment in our hearts. It can isolate us, tempting us to believe that no one understands us. Pain can tempt us to long for the greener grass we are sure is growing in other fields. Pain can even tempt us to believe that God has abandoned us, or that there is no God in the first place. But pain can lead elsewhere, too. Pain can strengthen us, similar to the way hard work strengthens our muscles. That which removes our comfort (like resistance) can actually result in strength rather than weakness! Pain can also cultivate perseverance, humility, discipline, and faith. Okay, I’ll do it — I’ll quote the movie Star Trek V. Captain Kirk is tempted to let an alien force remove all of his life’s pain (including the death of his son), but Kirk wisely insists: “I want my pain. I need my pain!”
Within a month, Moses’ entire life had changed, and not in a direction he would have wished. We can only wonder how often he thought back on his crime of passion. We can only wonder at the pain of letting go of the dreams of his young adulthood. And while God had not “forced” Moses into this challenge, God would be willing to shape Moses within it, and even teach Moses how to lead a stubborn flock in the wilderness (he had no idea whom he would lead later in his life). Moses would learn that just because life is hard doesn’t mean something is wrong.
In a world that tries to sell us easy answers and quick fixes, are we willing to dwell in our own wilderness long enough to let God shape us there?
– Have you ever had a season of “wilderness”? Tell someone the story.
– What has been your experience of pain, and what was its result in your life?
– Are you in a painful wilderness right now? Do you have someone you trust to talk to about it?
– If you have a story of being strengthened as the result of pain in your life, whom do you know that could be inspired by your story?