One evening in a woman’s Bible study group we talked about the “nothing times”. It started when a young woman said something like this, “I moved here about five years ago. I had a baby who turned out to have serious life threatening health issues. My whole life has changed. My husband and I used to be respected leaders in my church. I was a professional in the field of law and had a respected job. But now I am nothing. No one knows who I am or what I was.” So we talked about those times in our life when we feel as if we are worth nothing, and we are doing nothing.
“Nothing times,” such as experiencing a major health problem that alters our life style; losing our job and title; experiencing a major financial loss; marital problems; problems with children, and countless difficulties and life changes, can reveal what our identity and life is based on.
The truth is in order to make it through these times we need to have a value beyond ourselves, our position, looks and what we can do or achieve. Who we are needs to be defined by something greater than our appearance, education, position, achievements, health or success in life.
Great Men and Nothing Times
The Bible tells stories of men and women who experienced “nothing times.” Nothing times or desert times, are those times when everything we associated with who we are and what we do that gives meaning to our lives is stripped away. We may feel like a no body, a nothing, a non-contributor, but it is in those times we can learn whose we really are and how the truth we learn can change our life.
We could study the “nothing times” of Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, David, Elijah, Elisha, Mary, Paul and others, but today let’s look briefly at Moses.
Moses’ Nothing Time
Moses was a prince of Egypt but was demoted to a shepherd in the desert (Exodus 2:11-25). Truly this must have seemed like a “nothing time” to Moses. After all, Moses had been educated in the pharaoh’s courts, trained as a soldier in the Egyptian army, entrusted with leadership and responsibility, experienced wealth, luxury and privilege. Moses was in running to be the next ruler of Egypt.
What a come down it must have been for Moses when he found himself a fugitive running from Egyptian officials and then tending sheep in a desert. Yet, God used this time when Moses probably felt like a “nobody,” who was doing nothing of importance, to teach Moses how to live in relationship with God, and what his true identity and purpose is.
This “nothing time” is referred to as Moses’ desert experience. During this time, Moses learned to be humble before God. Moses fell in love with God during this time and became deeply bonded to God. It was because of this humility and bond that God was able to use Moses in such a powerful way. Even though Moses was well educated and powerful within himself, God worked through Moses’ humility and Godly devotion more than any of Moses’ previous education and training.
A key for Moses was that he did not hold unto his past position, or continue to define himself as a privileged son of Egypt, but rather he opened himself to learn of God and to do God’s will, God’s way. God used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and to bring Israel into a covenant relationship with God.
The Glory Times
As we read through Exodus, we see what a beautiful and close relationship Moses developed with God through his nothing time, as well as time when he led God’s people through their wilderness. Through humility and faith, Moses developed an intimate relationship with God so much so that Moses had the faith to ask God to see His glory, and God did as Moses requested in Ex. 33:18-23
“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”.
Something Out of “My Nothing”
As we read through the Bible, we can see many other people who had those “nothing times.” Some, such as King Saul, responded in pride and fear, and as a result were unable to be used by God. Others responded in faith. In conclusion, as we reflect on Moses we see some of the keys to surviving and growing in the “nothing” or desert times:
- relinquish your hold on your self-made identity, value and purpose
- define yourself by your relationship with God
- be humble and open yourself to God’s working; allow Him to show you what you need to know about yourself and Him
- trust that God is in control, He sees your distress and is working in and for you behind the scenes.
I believe that all of the seemingly nothing times in our life can bring us closer to God and help us see Him in a way that we may have never seen Him before. The question is:
“Are you willing to look to God during the “nothing” times?”
A Verse for Thought
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10