If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” do not be afraid of them. Just remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt….
Deuteronomy 7:17-18 (NRSV)
There is a technical term used in movie making called “shift focus.” It’s when the camera is focused on one object while another object in the shot is blurry, then then camera shifts the focus so that the other object is in focus and the first object blurs out. Filmmakers use this technique to transition the audience’s attention and to move the story along.
When things in life go wrong and times are tough, it’s easy to get myopically focused on our present circumstances. Our brains zero in on what’s happening in the moment and, as a result, our hearts can drive all sorts of negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, doubt and depression. These emotions can be spiritually crippling and paralyzing.
In today’s chapter, Moses anticipates that his people may find themselves in such circumstances. He instructs them to do a mental and spiritual shift focus as an antidote to their fears: remember.
- Remember when you were slaves in Egypt and God delivered you.
- Remember when the plagues hit and you remained safe.
- Remember when the Egyptian army was chasing you and God miraculously saved you and gave you victory.
He could have gone on:
- Remember when you thirsty and God provided water from a rock.
- Remember when you were hungry and God sent bread from heaven.
- Remember when you wandered and God sent both cloud and fire to lead you.
The shift focus from our present circumstances to past situations reminds us that God has been faithful in the past (So why shouldn’t I believe He will be faithful in my current situation?), that we survived in the past (So why shouldn’t I believe I’ll get through this), and that things eventually worked out (So why shouldn’t I trust that my current situation will work out, too?). The result is that our faith begins to counter our fear and our paralysis gives way to us moving forward.
Today, I’m reminded of the many times God has provided and protected me through the years. Why then, should I fear present troubles?