Summary: The only way to go from Mar’ah to Elim is to turn to Jesus … who is Jehovah Rapha … the One who heals … the One who repairs.
The sign in the parking lot said: “Crystal Lake – 5 miles.” So you shoulder your pack and begin hiking to Crystal Lake. It’s fun at first … being in the woods … beautiful clear day … the fresh air … the sounds … seeing all the nature … but after a few hours your backpack starts to get a little bit heavier and you start to wonder how far you’ve gone. It feels like you’ve gone four miles … at least. Every time that you round a bend in the trail you expect to see the refreshing blue waters of Crystal Lake … but once you get around the bend all you see are more trees and more trail. “Maybe around the next bend,” you hope. Nope! Only more trees and another bend in the trail. Maybe around the next bend … and the next bend … or the next one … only to get around the bend and see [pause] … more trees, more trail … no Crystal Lake.
By now your backpack feels like it weighs a ton and you just want to get there so that you can set up camp and relax, maybe catch a refreshing swim before dinner. Man, that water’s gonna feel s-o-o-o good … if you ever get there. But it seems like the trail’s never gonna end … every turn just reveals another turn. As you become more and more tired and more and more frustrated, you also start to become more and more concerned … maybe this isn’t the right trail to Crystal Lake … maybe we missed a turn or a trail sign along the way! You start to feel a little panic …
The same thing can happen in life with our finances, our work, our problems. You hit a rough patch but you take it in stride. “Hey,” you think, “life happens, right? I’m gonna get through this. Yeah … I’m not gonna let this get me down.” But days turn into weeks … weeks turn into months … possibly years … and things stay the same or they keep getting worse … and you begin to wonder, “What’s going on?”
So you pray harder … you pray more … and still things don’t change … and then you reach that point … you know that point, am I right? The point where you’re at the end of your rope … your back’s against the wall … you’re tired … you’re frustrated … frightened. You start to wonder, “Is God mad at me? Has God forsaken me, turned His back on me?” Like David, you begin to cry out: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2).
When things don’t change, you start to become angry and bitter. Job never cursed God but he sure got angry and bitter at times, amen? He tells his so-called friends: “Like a slave who longs for death, and like laborers who look for their wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. I will not restrain my mouth. I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:2-3, 11).
Sometimes it seems like your trouble … or troubles … are never gonna end. Sometimes it feels like God has turned His back on you or turned a deaf ear or a blind eye to your plight. If you’ve ever reached that point … or you’re at that point right now … then you can begin to imagine what the Hebrew people were feeling in the wilderness of Shur.
Imagine, if you can, that you and your people have been enslaved to a powerful nation for over 400 years … forced to do the hard, dirty work so that your captors and masters can live in relative ease and comfort. For 400 years, your people have prayed to the LORD … and for 400 years … nothing … silence and never-ending suffering and disappointed hope. After a lifetime of prayer on your part, it seems to you that God has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to your plight and the plight of your fellow slaves. And then, from out of the desert … the wilderness … wander in two old men … brothers … one of them so old and feeble that he appears to need a cane … a walking stick … and they tell you that they have been sent by YHWH … Yahweh … the God of your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … who has heard your prayers … and that they are God’s answer for 400 years of prayer. Yeah, right!