Two of the deadliest words for a believer to think upon are If only. For these words will lead even the sanest of Christians to doubt the Lord and His sovereignty. I recently began reading the book of Exodus in my daily quiet time. Today I came upon the passage when the Israelites come to their own If only moment. It says, “The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Dessert of Sin (appropriately named don’t you think) which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, If Only, we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (A bit dramatic, but don’t we all have such moments?)
Now if you have read the book of Exodus, you know that the Lord has just done amazing things in the sight of His people. They have plundered the Egyptians and marched out of Egypt boldly. They have walked across the Red Sea on dry ground and watched the Egyptians be swallowed up by the same sea. The Bible says that when they saw these things, they feared God and put their trust in Him. Yet here, we find them not long after grumbling and complaining because they are hungry and thirsty. They say if only we would have stayed in Egypt, if only we had stayed there we would have all the food we could want. Seemingly, they have forgotten the oppression that they were under.( Isn’t that just like us, how quick we are to forget and only remember the good.) They have forgotten how they had to make bricks with their own hands and even find their own straw to do it with. Yet, these same people who were once crying out for the Lord’s deliverance are the same ones who now say, If Only!!!! If only we would have stayed in Egypt, we would have been better off.
Before we are too hard on the Israelites though, how often do we find ourselves doing the same thing. When times are good we can boldly trust in the Lord. Yet, when problems arise we are quick to doubt and be afraid. We are quick to think on all the if only’s.
Today we missed our flight! We had tickets to return to Korea and our flight was set to leave at 8:55 am. By now, we would be somewhere over the Pacific headed for Japan. Yet, we did not feel when we left Korea that we were suppose to return. When we bought the round trip tickets, there was a large possibility that we would return, but things changed and we felt the Lord wanted us to go elsewhere. So, we left and came back to the States, believing that the Lord had a plan and a purpose for us leaving Korea and that He would show us what to do. However, 5 months later we don’t know much more than we knew then. So as you can imagine this morning when I woke up and thought about those tickets and the flight we were about to miss, I had many If Only moments. To myself I thought if only we would have stayed in Korea, or if only we were going back today as planned. If only that, then we wouldn’t be here still waiting on the Lord. Then we’d have a job and ministry to return to. We’d have a place to live and the kids would have their friends, if only, if only, if only.
Yet, if I let myself dwell here, I am headed for the pits of despair. I will crumble under these oppressive thoughts and want to quit on God. It’s easy to complain about our situation, it’s easy to doubt and be afraid, it’s easy to blame and second guess. And this is exactly what the enemy wants us to do. When he leads us to doubt God and His sovereignty, when he gets us to question the Lord, he’s got us right where he wants us and on top of it all, it’s sin.
So, thought my flesh wants to doubt and second guess. I will trust in the Lord. Though I don’t know what God is doing or why He had us to leave, I will trust in the Lord. Though He hasn’t shown us whats next, I will trust in the Lord. He is God, I am not. He does have a plan and it is far better than anything I could dream up. He is sovereign and in control, He does not make mistakes. I will trust in Him.
I don’t know what you are going through, but whatever it is, don’t beat yourself up thinking on the if only’s. God is sovereign and He is still on His throne. All the if only’s in the world will not change that. If your like me, you may only be holding on by a thread, only by the grace of God. You may not understand why, but I challenge you as I challenge myself, just hold on. He’s never early and never late, He’s always on time. His grace is sufficient and He will see you through. Praise be to Him.