I had a panic attack last weekend as I ate breakfast with my husband. I had no reason to panic. I just felt strange, and I saw a magazine with fall leaves on it that reminded me winter was coming, and I remembered those winter days in my past when everything seemed to collapse–and I panicked. I stepped into dangerous empathy for my past self that ignored who I was today.
Thankfully, I am learning what to do when I panic, and that day I immediately talked to my husband and got moving. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth with refreshing mint and washed my face with lavender. Then I looked into the mirror, and I had one of those John 14:26 moments–“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
The Spirit recalled a verse that I had read just the day before in Exodus that I had been reluctant to read.
I have been trying to read more of the Old Testament lately, but the feeling that I won’t “get anything out of it” has slowed me down and made me choose naps over reading about strange men and women from thousands of years ago.
But the other night, I had some time to myself, and I chose to read, colored-pencils in hand in case something struck me. I didn’t expect that anything would. But what I read has been my strength this past week.
In Exodus chapters 3 and 4, God visits a reluctant Moses through a burning bush and tells him to go to Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery.
Despite hearing the voice of God and seeing a miraculous sign, Moses is terrified.
Who am I? he asks, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? (3:11)
But God doesn’t tell Moses who Moses is. Instead, God says, I will be with you.
I will be with you. I highlighted this in blue and wrote the words at the top of the page as a reminder.
Then God tells Moses who God is–I AM who I AM. (3:14). The answer is bold and powerful. It tells Moses why it matters that this God will be with him. It is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–the God who has always been and always will be.
Still, Moses is not impressed, and his attention remains on himself. What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you?” (4:1)
Patiently, God shows Moses God’s power through two miraculous signs–the staff turning into the snake and Moses’s hand becoming leprous.
Moses is still self-focused and unsure. Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. (4:10)
God is frustrated now. Who gave human beings their mouths? he says. Now go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say. (4:11-12)
Now I, as a reader, am frustrated, because Moses continues to doubt after witnessing what many of us have longed for–a visual and audible visit from God, complete with miraculous snakes and bushes that prove God’s existence.
Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else. (4:13)
With no other argument to make, his true feelings come out–he just doesn’t want to do it.
One might argue that Moses does not doubt God here, but that he only doubts himself and that Pharaoh will listen to a Hebrew with a slow tongue.
I can relate. I have felt this same self-doubt and lack of confidence. What if? is a question I ask often.
But God, I am not good enough. Not strong enough. Not brave enough. Please–send someone else!
But while I would like to pretend that this fear is truly self-doubt, it is not. It is doubt in God. It is doubt that God will do what God says, or that God could possibly help me. It is doubt that the one who created me is able to continue creating me.
God promised Moses that he would be able to speak for God, but Moses still doubted. This angers God. In response, God accommodates. God allows for Moses to take Aaron with him so that he can be Moses’s voice.
I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do, God says. (4:15).
This is not the end of Moses’ whining and questioning and doubting, but, in the end, God does give Moses the strength and power to complete what he was sent to do, and God is glorified in Moses’s weaknesses.
But what if Moses had trusted from the beginning? What if God had not had to compromise with Moses? What amazing power would Moses have witnessed from his own voice if he had allowed God’s spirit to use him?
What if I accepted God’s power?
I will be with you.
I recognize the danger in taking the words God speaks to individuals and taking it on as our own, which is why I am grateful that other scriptures back up this amazing promise. In fact, it is Jesus’s prayer in the garden before his death that those who believed in him may be one as Jesus was one with the Father. God longs for closeness with us. Before Jesus ascends into heaven, he tells the disciples that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit we all receive–a Spirit of power.
Self-doubt drowns in this knowledge.
Self-doubt turns me inward and tells me I’ll never be good enough. But the Bible is full of stories of helplessly broken people who were used for God’s glory, not because of their confidence or abilities, but because of God’s power within them.
I have grown in self-confidence over the years as I continue to overcome fears and challenges, and I do believe self-confidence is important. But in the face of all my fears, I know that it is not my own strength that will get me through. I know that self-confidence is not truly self-confidence but a confidence that God, who is still creating me and will be with me and empower me through the Spirit.
This is my prayer this week. God is already with us. God’s power is available. All we have to do is embrace it with trust and obedience.