Little things

“And the Lord did so. Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies” (Exodus 8:24 NKJV).

I was standing recently under the shade of a mango tree in an Asian country and noticed several flies swarming around. When I looked more closely I saw many large flies sitting on the leaves and fruit. Other insects were also flying about, but the flies were especially numerous. Almost without thinking I moved back several feet to get away from them.

Have you noticed among the ten plagues which God sent upon Egypt how many of them were of small, normally inconsequential things? There were frogs, lice, flies, and locusts, none of which normally cause much of a problem individually. But when they swarm in huge numbers the impact can be devastating, and so it was in Egypt.

Some have speculated that the sheer numbers of insects on earth may be God’s compensation to the tiny creatures for their small size. A hill of fire ants or a hive of “killer bees” has power far out of proportion to the small body of each one.

Many times when we find ourselves stressed to the point of breaking, it is not the size of the problem that overwhelms us. It is rather the sheer number of smaller problems, each one manageable alone, but in combination more than we feel able to bear. Non-fatal but worrisome illness may come together with difficulties in relationships, stress in the workplace, and financial reverses. We become worn down and unable to cope. Like the series of frogs and bugs and other problems in Egypt, the land is suddenly almost uninhabitable.

What is to be done in such times? Pharaoh knew the answer. “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Entreat the Lord that he may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go” (Exodus 8:8). The King knew from where the plague had come, and he knew who had the power to make it go away. He also knew that in order to persuade God he had only to ask him and to repent from his previous errors.

Pharaoh’s problem was that he was not truly repentant. Time after time he stated, “I will let the people go,” but once the plagues ceased he changed his mind. Of course that resulted in yet another plague. Whether each one was more severe and harder to bear than the previous plagues is not clear, until the last one, but it is obvious that their cumulative effect was terrible to the people.

When we pray and repent insincerely, or simply endure a problem until it seems to go away, we may find temporary relief. But it is certain that more problems will follow. “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 5:7). Only when our repentance is genuine and our prayers are fervent will true and lasting relief come. Even then, it may not be the cessation of our suffering, but rather the strength to endure and overcome it (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). James stated it well:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

Problems will continue to beset us. But if we maintain trust in God and look to him, help will come. Sometimes the trouble will cease. Sometimes strength to cope will be given. Always, God gives to everyone who asks with great generosity.

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