Where Is Jethro When You Need Him?
By Dot Bowen
Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18 (NIV)
The New Year is often a time when people reflect on last year and prepare to accomplish more than ever in the coming year. We glance at our “to-dos” from the previous year that still haven’t been checked off our list and resolve to be more organized, worked harder and smarter, and be all things to all people. How are we going to get everything done? How are we going to meet everyone’s needs and expectations? Let me go ahead and answer these questions. We can’t! It’s impossible to do everything, and we certainly can’t meet everyone’s needs or expectations. To be quite honest, we are not supposed to be or do everything for everyone. When did we start believing it’s our responsibility to make everyone happy? In trying to please everyone or being available for everything, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. The truth is only God is everything and only God can fulfill everyone’s expectations. Maybe our job is to let Him do what only He can do.
Moses was an amazing leader, but he had to learn he was limited in his time and abilities. From the beginning of his life, Moses had a heart to help the helpless. One day Moses left the palace to visit his people—the Hebrews. As he watched them work, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Moses immediately stepped in to help the Hebrew, but instead, he ended up killing the Egyptian. Because of his crime, Moses fled to the wilderness where God began to prepare him for his future life of 40 years in the wilderness. God placed Moses in the position to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, and he had to learn he could not please everyone. It didn’t matter what Moses or God did, the Israelites complained. Moses needed to learn how to deal with the complaints of the people. At a crucial moment in his wilderness journey, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro taught him some a leadership lesson. It’s so interesting how God can teach us through some of the most unlikely sources. We can learn from Jethro by reading Exodus 18.
Moses’ wife and two sons were visiting Jethro, and it was time for them to join Moses in the wilderness. Moses shared with his father-in-law about all the miracles God performed as they were leaving Egypt, and this is when Jethro realized everyone depended on Moses to solve their problems. As encouraging it can be to be used by God, it can also be draining. Jethro boldly told Moses, What you are doing is not good. I’m sure this came as a shock to Moses because prior to this Jethro appeared to be extremely pleased with his son-in-law. However, Jethro knew Moses needed to select and teach capable leaders to help carry the load of the people’s needs if he were going to continue to lead well. Moses agreed and did exactly what his father in law told him to do. He started by holding a leadership conference! He realized giving other leaders responsibility would help him not to feel so overwhelmed.
No one but God knew their journey in the wilderness would last 40 years. And no one but God knew Moses wouldn’t be able to keep doing what he was doing without some assistance. Perhaps Jethro spoke out of love for his family and realized in order for Moses to have margin as a husband and father, things had to change. I love that Moses was receptive to this insight and realized he was not the only one who could be used by God in the lives of God’s people. When Moses trained others to stand beside him and serve the Hebrew people through their own unique talents, everyone was happier.
God gifts and empowers each of us to do what He specifically calls us to do. But if we try to do everything for everyone, it will only be a matter of time before we find ourselves tired, discouraged, and feeling like failures with no desire to do anything but go to bed. Friends, I have been there and done that! We must work together to help each other feel valued, even within our own families. As we look to the weeks ahead and enter into this busy time of year, let’s take Jethro’s advice. We each have our limitations, and we need to ask for and accept help. I’m learning every day God never intended me to be everything to everyone. That’s His job!
Further Reading Exodus 2:11-22; Exodus 18:1-27