That night will forever burn in their memory. Waiting around, pacing the floor, nerves all on edge. The parents held their babies tight, waiting for the signal that they were safe and could emerge. Throwing everything they owned over their shoulder, they ran quickly and quietly and dared to hope that they would get out alive. That very night God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, tribe by tribe. They were still singing the victor’s song when they came to a screeching halt. Just as they received the bad news, they heard sounds in the distance behind them. Their fears were confirmed. The Egyptians had come to take them back. And they were trapped against the Red Sea with nowhere to go.

The Israelites were the most blessed children of God. They saw myriads of miracles, heard the Lord communicate with them, and observed His power close-up. He sent them a deliverer to pull them out of bondage and gave them a personal travel guide to lead them to a land that He promised they would inherit.
But they weren’t thinking about how good God was they came up against that ocean, being hotly pursued by their former taskmasters the Egyptians. They were angry. How could God allow them to escape their oppressors only to be trapped by this huge body of water? They would  either be killed, or at best, taken back to captivity.
Later on, when they were en route to the Promised Land, with nothing to eat or drink in sight, God seemed anything but good. They quickly forgot their torment back in Egypt when they remembered those melons that they loved so much. Their captivity almost seemed worth it for a bite of one of those. To make matters worse, their spies brought back word that there were giants in the new land. They thought would surely forfeit their inheritance because the giants would squish them like grasshoppers. Was this part of God’s good plan? When they failed to believe that God could help them take the land, they were sentenced to wander 40 years in the wilderness because of their unbelief. God seemed cruel.
But their God was looking out for them. He wanted to show them His power at the Red Sea, how He would part those waters and make corpses of their enemies. He would also drop manna from the sky every morning, fly hordes of quail so low that they could be caught, and gush water from a rock for His hungry people. With each fortress in the Promised Land, He would give them victory over their enemies one by one in unique and creative ways.
And yet, God’s children were constantly disgruntled, hot-headed, and bitter. What God had already done for them wasn’t enough. They wanted every comfort and convenience to go along with it. God loved His people too much to leave them in their complaining, self-centered state. How much He desired to show them His power and how much He loved them! In hindsight, we can see the faults of the children of Israel and mock them. They certainly were selfish and ungrateful! But we are often no different.
We, too, experience oppression and time in the desert. The way we continue to see God as gracious through thick and thin is all in perspective. Our vision is easily blurred by the fog of grief, physical needs, or emotional trauma. The key to believing the promise despite opposition lies in identity.
Knowing who God is stands as our sturdy foundation when life is crumbling around us. Beth Moore explains it like this in her book Believing God: “Over and over in Scripture, when God was about to move in the lives of His people or instruct them to reposition, He began with a reminder of Who He was. A thumbs-up of sorts.” To Abraham, He said, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur.’ and ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.’ ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob…I have indeed seen the misery of my people…So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land (Exodus 3:6-8).’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’…God knew that the most powerful force driving the children of Israel would have pressing them toward their earthly destiny was their certainty that the One who went before them was who He said He was.” It ought to be enough that when He says Who He is, we take Him at His word.
Once you know Who God is, you can be assured of your divine calling in this life. We work for God. He doesn’t work for us. When we see ourselves as an island, only looking out for ourselves and our best interests, it becomes easy to shake our fist at God when things are going poorly for us. We are here for a God-designed purpose. We are blessed, forgiven, chosen, redeemed, adopted, and favored.
When they were trapped on the shores of the Red Sea, God told the Israelites this: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14.) He said that after He butted them up against a roadblock and waited for them to ask Him for help. He was just waiting to show off for them. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We can sit back and watch Him do His thing. That’s what makes Him God and not us. Isn’t that comforting?
Even when God is the furthest thing from our minds and choices, He is always ordering things on the timeline of the universe to be the best-case scenario in the end for us. How incredibly undeserving we are!
When we view God rightly, as a good God, we realize how far from good we are. When we are tempted to think something isn’t fair, we can remind ourselves that simply by giving us salvation, He is good. If He never did another thing for us, He would be good. Redeeming us was more than He ever had to do for us, and yet every day He continues to give new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23). His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and goodness
(2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

In the good and the bad, our Father is the treasure. Not favorable circumstances, a secure bank account, or a well-manicured lawn. Regardless of how things go for us, He wants us to desire Him above wealth, fame, or success. He is the ultimate prize. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When you turn your eyes upon Jesus, the world around grows dim and you aren’t distracted by lesser priorities and frustrated when things don’t go easily for you.

The good news is that He doesn’t leave us to fix our vision on our own. He gives us a power tool: gratitude. He tells us that we are to be thankful in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18.) Not necessarily thankful for  all things, but grateful that we can depend on Him to be in control. When we choose to give thanks even when we don’t understand, He gives us the eyes to see His plan behind the scenes. Jean-Pierre de Caussade said it this way in A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People: 

You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are. You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies- though that never occurs to you. Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet {God’s} beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.”

God knows that in order to recognize the good, we must be familiar with the bad first. The children of Israel would never have appreciated the Promised Land if they hadn’t wandered in that desert first. They would have taken for granted every one of those giant grapes. By allowing them to suffer the consequences of their unbelief, He was gracious in teaching them His character. They would indeed have crumbled under the weight of the giants without the Lord’s help. He needed to establish an understanding between Him and His children…that He could be trusted to win their battles for them.

The truth is that God wouldn’t be good if He gave us everything we wanted. The psalmist begged God not to give him so much that he would forget the Lord (Psalm 30:8-9). One of the reasons He is good is because there are a LOT of times He doesn’t give us what we ask for. As long as we hold onto our earthly treasures, we will never be able to receive all that He has for us. Often, in His withholding, He is releasing our grip on this world to open our hands and make room for more of His blessings and more of Himself.

When our good God is the standard for what is good in this life, then we will see everything that comes from His Hand as a good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Even the bad is good when we trust that it comes from a heart that loves us deeper than anyone on earth could.