We all face seasons in life when we feel stuck. Sometimes we feel stagnant in our careers, relationships, or personal growth. During these times, it’s easy to feel discouraged and wonder if anything will ever change.
The good news is that we are not alone in experiencing feelings of being stuck. Even biblical heroes went through difficult seasons of feeling trapped in less-than-ideal circumstances. By looking at their stories, we can find encouragement and learn principles for getting “unstuck” even when life feels impossible.
- Joseph spent years trapped in slavery and prison before God elevated him to power in Egypt. His life illustrates that God has a plan even in our darkest moments.
- The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Though they often complained, God still had a purpose during this time of seeming stagnation.
- David experienced long seasons of running for his life and living in desert caves before finally becoming king. His life shows that seasons of waiting prepare us for the plans God has for us.
- Elijah felt alone and afraid while hiding from Jezebel. But God met him in his despair and revealed He still had work for Elijah to do.
- Paul was imprisoned multiple times for preaching the gospel. Yet he continued to share Christ and write parts of the New Testament during confinement. God can use us even in restricted circumstances.
- Jesus spent 30 silent years on earth before beginning His public ministry. This shows that God often works in unseen ways during long periods of obscurity.
The stories of these biblical figures reveal a powerful truth: God remains at work even when we feel stuck in transition. Rather than giving up hope, we can trust God to use trying circumstances to strengthen our character and deepen our dependence on Him. He may be preparing us for greater things ahead.
Joseph: From Slave to Deputy Pharaoh
Few biblical figures experienced feeling stuck like Joseph. As a young man, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy over his dreams. He was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer, and forced to work as a household slave (Genesis 39:1). Imagine how trapped Joseph must have felt, betrayed by his family and serving as someone’s property in a foreign land.
Joseph eventually gained responsibility in Potiphar’s household. But his circumstances turned worse when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of making advances on her. Joseph was thrown into prison based on her lies (Genesis 39:19-20). Now he was confined behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. His hopes of freedom seemed impossible.
Despite the injustice, Joseph maintained his integrity and served well even in prison. After correctly interpreting dreams of fellow inmates, Joseph was summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s disturbing dreams. He warned Pharaoh that a severe famine was coming and recommended actions to prepare (Genesis 41:25-36). Pharaoh immediately recognized Joseph’s wisdom and discernment. He elevated Joseph from prisoner to second-in-command over all of Egypt (Genesis 41:39-41)!
Joseph’s story reminds us that God has a purpose – even when we face slave-like treatment or unfair incarceration. Though Joseph felt trapped for over a decade, God used his circumstances to position him for an influential role in a pagan nation. What the enemy intended for harm, God redeemed for amazing good (Genesis 50:20).
The Israelites: Stuck in the Wilderness
Imagine being stuck in a hot desert wilderness for 40 years. This was the plight of the Israelites after being freed from slavery in Egypt. Though no longer oppressed as slaves, they now wandered seemingly aimlessly in a vast, desolate landscape.
God delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea for them to cross on dry land (Exodus 14:21-22). Under Moses’ leadership, they then traveled into the Sinai wilderness. But fear and distrust of God led to disobedience. When Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the people grew restless and made an idol out of gold (Exodus 32:1-6). As punishment for their rebellion, God sentenced the Israelites to wander in the wilderness until the generation of unbelief died off (Numbers 14:26-35).
This began a long 40-year period of feeling stuck in nominal survival mode. The Israelites faced danger, hunger and thirst in the desert. At times, they grumbled and complained about their hardships (Exodus 16:2-3). Yet God still cared faithfully for them. He provided manna and quail for food, brought water from a rock, and protected them from snake bites (Exodus 16:4-5, Numbers 20:7-11, Numbers 21:6-9). The cloud by day and pillar of fire by night signified God’s continual presence and guidance (Exodus 13:21-22).
Though the Israelites often failed to trust God, He still had a purpose during those long years of wandering. He was preparing the next generation to finally enter the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua 1:1-9). The wilderness shaped Israel into a self-sustaining nation, no longer dependent on Egypt. Most importantly, it was a time of learning total reliance on God for deliverance and provision.
When we feel stuck in dry spiritual seasons, we can remember Israel’s example. Though we face hardship during long periods of waiting, God’s presence still guides us. Our faith can grow deeper through total dependence on Him, preparing us for greater things ahead.
David: Finding Purpose While Fleeing for His Life
Young David knew he was called to be king of Israel based on the prophet Samuel’s anointing (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Yet for many long years, King Saul chased David as a fugitive throughout the wilderness regions of Judah and beyond. David lived as an exile – cut off from community life, hunted down, and constantly on the run.
Imagine David’s sense of feeling stuck during this decade of evading Saul’s murderous pursuits (1 Samuel 18-26). David was the rightful heir to the throne. But Saul’s obsessive jealousy made it impossible for David to assume that role. Instead, he wandered from wilderness to wilderness hiding in caves, fearful for his life. David cried out to God, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1)
Yet God used this frustrating season of delay to develop David’s character. As a shepherd, David learned to trust God through solitary days caring for sheep. His courage and faith were tested and strengthened through defeating wild animals and Goliath. The psalms he wrote during exile reveal an intimate walk with God in the midst of distress. God grew David into a humble, prayerful leader during those obscure wilderness years.
When we feel trapped waiting for God’s promises, David’s example offers perspective. Rather than giving up hope, we can ask God to deepen our trust in Him. Our faith may strengthen exponentially during long stretches of obscurity. Seasons of delay prepare us for all God has planned when the waiting finally ends.
Elijah: Discouraged and Stuck in Remote Hiding
Mighty prophet Elijah faced serious opposition and death threats from evil queen Jezebel after his powerful Mount Carmel confrontation with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Immediately after this spiritual victory, Elijah became afraid and ran for his life deep into the Negev wilderness (1 Kings 19:1-4).
Imagine Elijah’s despair. He sat under a broom tree, exhausted and severely depressed, begging God to take his life (1 Kings 19:4). Just a day earlier, Elijah witnessed God’s amazing power on Mount Carmel. Now he felt all alone and stuck in remote wilderness because of Jezebel’s threats.
But God lovingly ministered to Elijah in his distress. An angel provided food and rest. Through gentle revelation, God showed Elijah that he was not alone – 7,000 others still served Him faithfully (1 Kings 19:18). Although Elijah felt defeated, God assured him there was still important kingdom work ahead.
God then sent Elijah to anoint two new kings and to mentor His successor Elisha (1 Kings 19:15-16). Elijah went on to boldly confront wicked King Ahab and prophesy the end of Ahab’s dynasty (1 Kings 21). God powerfully used Elijah for years to come. But first, He lovingly restored discouraged Elijah during a dark season of feeling down and out.
When we face burnout and despair, Elijah’s example offers hope. Though we feel like giving up, God promises His presence and reminds us of purpose. He renews strength to continue serving Him, even amid opposition and threat. Take heart if you are in an Elijah-like moment. God cares and will restore you to fruitful ministry in His perfect timing.
Paul: Imprisoned Yet Still Advancing the Gospel
The Apostle Paul experienced extensive hardship during his missionary journeys to spread the Good News of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He faced beatings, stoning, shipwrecks and relentless persecution. Yet one of Paul’s greatest frustrations was being imprisoned and unable to travel freely.
Paul was confined under house arrest for two years in Caesarea and then later imprisoned in Rome for another two years (Acts 24:27, Acts 28:30). Imagine his sense of feeling stuck and limited. Paul’s passion was planting churches and making disciples. Now he was chained daily to a Roman soldier, unable to visit all the communities he served.
Yet Paul still found purpose during confinement. From prison, he wrote many New Testament letters like Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Through visitors, he continued teaching and encouraging other believers (Acts 28:30-31). Paul believed God could use him effectively right where he was. He wrote to the Philippians, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
When limitations restrict our ministry, Paul’s example offers perspective. Our first response can be seeking to break free. But God may want to use us right where we are “stuck.” Though confined, we can still share Christ’s love through writing, teaching, encouragement and living out a godly example. Limitations can drive innovation and deeper walk with God. He will use willing hearts no matter how confined we feel.
Jesus: 30 Years of Silent Preparation
It’s easy to imagine Jesus bursting onto the first century scene for three years of powerful public ministry. But what about the 30 preceding years living in virtual obscurity? Aside from the temple visit at age 12, the Gospels record nothing about Jesus’ life from age 12 to 30.
We know Jesus grew up in Nazareth, an insignificant town in Galilee. He apprenticed as a carpenter under His earthly father Joseph (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). Can you imagine the Son of God – the Messiah – laboring quietly over woodworking projects for 18 years before launching His ministry?
Jesus’ lengthy season of anonymity and ordinary living prepared Him for the grueling public years ahead. His ministry involved exhausting travel, late nights of prayer, constant demands from crowds, and rejection by the religious establishment. The silent years enabled Jesus to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Jesus embraced obscurity, trusting the Father’s perfect timing.
When our lives seem stuck on hold, Jesus’ early years offer perspective. Though we long for visible impact, God often works through periods of hidden growth and character development. Our assignments may seem small and insignificant for a season. But in humility and obedience, we can prepare for more public seasons ahead. God’s timing is perfect.
Moving Forward When Stuck
What encouragement can we take from these biblical examples of heroes who faced seasons of feeling stuck? Consider the following:
God remains at work even when we can’t perceive it. He orchestrates all things for our good according to His purposes, even lengthening waiting times to shape character (Romans 8:28-29). What seems like pointless delays to us continue the work of transformation.
Tough seasons pass and lead to new growth. Israel’s wilderness wandering lasted 40 years, David’s fugitive period about 10 years. Paul was imprisoned on multiple occasions. Yet each found purpose in the midst of frustration. New seasons inevitably came.
Dependence and intimacy with God deepen in obscure times. Jesus’ early years and Paul’s imprisonments drove deeper prayer and reliance on the Father. Difficult seasons train us to cling tighter to God.
God prepares us for greater impact through humbling process. Jesus embraced obscurity before a staggering public ministry. David’s character was shaped for kingship during exile. Elijah recovered his purpose after defeat. Their examples remind us that we are always in process. There is more God wants to do through our lives.
No matter how trapped or confused we feel today, take heart. Many biblical heroes faced the same frustrations and feelings. Trust that God has good plans in periods of waiting and obscurity. Cooperate with His work of transformation. Draw close to Jesus and seek His strength for each moment. Know that in His perfect timing, your current season will pass. God promises breakthrough, new opportunities, and restored purpose. His plans for you are always good – take courage!