How to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck

I’m blow-drying my hair, venting to Jesus (again) about the hurt that’s been haunting my heart for years when I say, “God, I can’t do this anymore.” Even though I’ve laid it down at Jesus’ feet probably 185 times this year alone, and even though He has cradled me with His verses and peace, new pain pricks open this wound that hasn’t yet healed. I tell Jesus, “I know and believe in your hope, but right now, this feels hopeless.”

Maybe I’m asking for the wrong solution. Maybe I’m striving too much and trusting too little. I know I need to move forward, but I feel stuck.

As I click off my hairdryer, God reminds me that sometimes He removes what’s hard, and sometimes we have to go through the hard-to-find freedom. And then I see this picture of the Israelites standing at the edge of the Red Sea.

You know the story. Pharaoh’s army was closing in behind Moses and the Israelites while they stared at the Red Sea flowing in front of them. Much like me during my hairdryer rant, they were stuck. They’d fled the Egyptians, and now that divinely orchestrated escape was going to end like this? Let’s look at the conversation Moses had with God:

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground'” (Exodus 14:13-16, ESV).

Sometimes, to get unstuck, we have to go through the very thing that is holding us back. But when He asks us to go through that hard or painful thing, we never walk through it alone. When we’re stuck, we can look to these instructions in Exodus 14 to know He is fighting for us, guiding us, and laying out the path for us:

Be still. He fights for us.

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,’” (Exodus 14:13-14, ESV).

When I said, “I can’t do this anymore,” I was right. I can’t. With the enemy behind me and waters I couldn’t cross in front of me, I’d landed in a battle I couldn’t win alone. All the most impressive striving and performing won’t find victory, no matter how hard I try.

But, when we quiet our striving and choose to be silent — other translations say, “be still,” “hold your peace,” and “be quiet” — we open ourselves up to letting the Lord lead. These different iterations of “be still” make the takeaway clear: Let’s lay down our hairdryers and pick up our Bibles. Let’s trade our cries for praying and listening for His guidance. When we stand firm and hold His peace, we will see deliverance. May we pause with Him, seek Him, hear Him, and let Him lead us through what we can’t do on our own. Let’s trust Him to fight the battle.

Step forward. He guides us.

The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15, ESV).

Sometimes, we can get stuck crying out to Him because we’re focused on what seems to be missing, rather than standing on the truth that He has already planned the race that He sets before us. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). When we know that, we can rest. As much as I don’t love it, the truth is we don’t need to know the course for our entire race before we begin the first mile. On the banks of the Red Sea, God directed the Israelites to go forward. The Amplified translation says, “Move forward, toward the sea.” His instructions were clear: You can’t stay here. Go. When we know He is guiding us, we can begin with the offering of just one faithful step.

Go through. He lays out the path.

“Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16, ESV).

God promises that He directs the steps of the godly (Psalm 37:23), just as He did on that bank. But in this faithfulness, He does even more. When He asked the Israelites to walk through walls of water, He didn’t offer a makeshift muddy, slippery trail — He provided a dry, clear path for them to walk through. This miracle of a dry path, celebrated throughout the Bible (Exodus 14:21, Isaiah 11:15, 43:16, 51:10, Psalm 77:19-20), stands as evidence of not just His provision but also of His care. He is in every detail.

He did not lead them out of Egypt only to have them caught by Pharaoh’s army — He led the Israelites out and then completely eliminated their enemy, all without a single Israelite harmed. This battle was solely the Lord’s. His people only needed to place one foot in front of the other. When we have the faith to go through what has us stuck, He will prepare the perfect path.

Maybe you’re worn down from the battle you face. Maybe, like me, you’re tired, and your heart just needs to move forward. As we take steps toward what we don’t know, we can hold onto these promises:

    • He shows us the path of life (Psalm 16:11).
    • He perfects all that concerns us (Psalm 138:8).
    • He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us (1 Peter 5:10).

That means we can move forward even when we’re afraid or hurting. We can move forward without expectation of pace or achievement. We can move forward without knowing the end.

If we are still and allow Him to fight the battle, we will learn to step away from the banks that hold us back. Let’s go forward through what He has for us, both gripping and offering our trust in Him. It will be enough.

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