Sue and I had been married for about a year and we were in the process of raising our financial support to go on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. We had just gotten back from our New Staff Training, and had exhausted all the money we had in savings in order to pay for our training. We had no money and were excited to be living by faith.
One morning the reality of our depleted finances hit us. I had finished balancing the checkbook and announced to Sue that we had seventy-five cents left in our account. Suddenly, she cried out, “We don’t even have the money to pay the toll to drive across the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge!” I, however, had a peculiar sense of exhilaration as I saw our circumstances as an opportunity for God to provide for us. Sure enough, we experienced what we believed were the provisions of God appearing just as we needed them and not a second too soon!
As I have grown in my years and maturity, I often find it difficult to draw upon the fearless trust I had as a new believer in Christ. When I was younger I was so confident and excited to be living out on the edge, trusting in the goodness of God. Although, I often don’t have the same unguarded enthusiasm in the face of risk, I have learned to rely upon the faithfulness of God.
One of the tools which has helped me when my present circumstances are overwhelming is what I call the Red Sea List. The idea came to me while I was reading the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. I found myself identifying with the struggles of the children of Israel. As I was reading I could so clearly see the effects of their selective memory. It was not long after having been miraculously delivered from the harsh enslavement in Egypt that the Israelites were grumbling and complaining about their hardships in the desert wilderness. Some were even willing to exchange their freedom for the security of slavery in Egypt.
I could so relate with the Children of Israel. How soon after some extraordinary answers to prayer am I complaining and worrying about my next hardship or difficulty. The scripture taught that their mistake was that they had forgotten all the good things God had done and instead were focusing on the troubles of their present circumstances. It is so much easier for me to worry about what lies ahead than express my gratitude for all that I am thankful for in the here and now.
The Red Sea List is a list of what we are grateful for. It is a tool designed to help us combat worry and grumbling by encouraging us to remember all the good things God has done. It is as simple as listing all the things you are grateful for. Small or large, material or spiritual, mundane or miraculous. Just start listing anything that comes to your mind. Don’t get distracted by the order or significance. Your mind will want to divert you from simply listing anything and everything you feel thankful for. It is helpful to set a timer and write your list for even just a minute or two.
Focusing on God and His goodness helps to shift our attention from past regrets or future worries to the fruit of faith expressed in gratitude for all our blessings. The expression of gratitude helps exchange resentment and anxiety for faith, hope, and love.