Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Moses and Math Problems


In The Shelter of God’s Promises Sheila Walsh talks about Moses’ bold requests to God.  She says: “He knew what intimacy with God was like; therefore, he knew he could be completely honest in his requests” (p. 20).

You don’t have to be one of the Bible’s great heroes to pray like this.  God also invites us to be completely honest with Him in our requests.  If we’re thinking it, God wants to hear about it.

A woman’s mind is like a huge whiteboard filled with a variety of topics.  Our thoughts can range through at least 15 different subjects in the course of 5 minutes or less.   If you’re anything like me, much of that thought time has to do with fretting about things that you want to control.  I spend a lot of time thinking about ways I can solve problems.  Somehow, things rarely seem to work out the way I plan!

I teach an after school math program for 5th graders that coaches kids on how to solve problems using a variety of strategies.  One of our class sayings is “Problem solving is what you do when you don’t know what to do.”  Some problems lend themselves to obvious strategies, others can be much more convoluted and challenging.  My son and I will sit and do the homework problems together and grapple with the hard ones until we find an answer.  My sheet of scratch paper is full of my pencil scrawls.  It’s messy, but it shows my hard work.  Being the teacher, I have the luxury of looking up the answers once we’re done to see if we got them right.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that if I read the solution to a problem before I try to work it out, the thrill of the challenge is gone.  If I’m in a rush before class and haven’t taken the time to work the problems, I don’t have the same level of understanding or connectedness with them.  Because I haven’t worked through them, I am not nearly as effective in discussing with the class how to solve them.  I can follow the steps on the printed page that looks so much neater than my own scratch paper, but sometimes I don’t even fully understand it myself.

Last week I gave out a problem that I recycled from one of last year’s tests.  One boy recognized it immediately and commented.  “I remember this problem, it was a hard one!  It felt so good when I figured out the answer.”  He didn’t remember it from the solutions sheet I passed out after the test; he remembered it because he’d sweated through solving it.

I think grappling with God in prayer is much the same way.  When we aren’t willing to pray through things or wait on God, we miss out on the intimacy He has to offer. We try to find quick fixes rather than trusting God to work in His perfect timing.  Sometimes we pray hoping He’ll just do it “our way,” because it looks more sanitized and orderly, like my pre-printed math solutions.  And just like my scratch paper scrawling, being open to God’s plan may lead to a messier process, but a more satisfying result and a deeper connectedness with Him.  As Sheila Walsh says:  “When God’s answer comes, His creativity leaves us stunned and in awe of Him”  (p. 28).  We find the joy and wonder of discovering the answer in his perfect planning and timing.

Praying honestly before God exposes our hearts to Him and shows our humble reliance on Him.  It shows God that we trust Him to work things out in His way and in His timing rather than relying on ourselves.

So, the next time you find yourself fretting or struggling with a problem, try entrusting it to God and letting Him work it out.  Unlike the Math Olympiad motto, maybe it would be better to say: “Praying is what you do when you don’t know what to do.”

I can’t wait to hear how He leaves you “stunned and in awe”!  Be sure to share so others can praise Him and be encouraged.


Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at

3 thoughts on “Moses and Math Problems

  1. I loved how you caught the connection between how messy life is but how satisfying life becomes when we allow God to lead us through the solutions. I could read your words all day!! Thanks


  2. Marybeth, “stunned and in awe” reminds me of my reaction to Joni Eareckson Tada’s talk in March at CPC. If any of you weren’t there or haven’t seen the video of the event, it is extraordinary. Here’s a link. Joni talks about a lot about prayer and how she is able to face the world each morning. This applies not just to quadriplegics but to anyone struggling no matter what the cause.
    Also, this week Sheila Walsh had a wonderful quote from AW Tozer along the same line. I was interested in seeing the whole quote and it is so good I thought I’d share it.

    God Moves in Mysterious Ways
    By A.W. Tozer
    “To the child of God, there is no such thing as accident. He travels an appointed way. The path he treads was chosen for him when as yet he was not, when as yet he had existence only in the mind of God.
    Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evils only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.
    When true faith enters, chance and mischance go out for good. They have no jurisdiction over them that are born of the Spirit, for such as these are sons of the new creation and special charges of the Most High God.
    While sojourning here below, these children of the eternal covenant may pay token tribute to nature; sickness, old age and death may levy upon them, and to the undiscerning eye, they may seem to be as other men. Here, as in all its other judgments upon Christianity, the world is completely fooled by appearances, for it cannot see that these believing ones are hid with Christ in God.”


  3. Great way to connect the math olympiad problems solving to the way God can help us with our daily struggles and problems. So often am I impatient and want to get to the finish line without wanting to go through the journey God may have intended for me. Letting go and let God work in me is such a hard human concept! I’m so busy that I don’t stop and let Him work in me and transform me more to the person He has intended for me to be .
    That’s why I am so grateful that I have the women at Focused Living in my life that each week remind me of how great God is and He makes all things come together for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose .
    Thanks Marybeth! 🙂


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