C.S. Lewis once quipped:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (Problem of Pain, 140)
I agree with Lewis that this is true most of the time. But then again, there are times when our suffering causes us to be so broken that we cannot even hear (or respond positively) to the voice of God. Consider Exodus 6. God gives a long list of what He is about to do in the lives of the Israelites. He promises all this:
- I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians
- I will deliver you from slavery to them
- I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment
- I will take you to be my people
- I will be your God
- You will know that I am the LORD your God—who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians
- I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession
To top it all off he attaches His name–The LORD—to the beginning of this litany and to its end. That is HUGE. The very character and viability of the LORD is attached to Him coming through on these promises.
You would think that such bold promises would “rouse a deaf world” in the midst of their suffering. But notice what happens:
“…they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (emphasis mine)
Occasionally our spirit is so broken and our bondage so taxing that we do not respond believingly to the promises of God. Sometimes our pain is the megaphone and the voice of God is the whisper.
If the Israelite’s are anything like me they wanted to believe everything that Moses was saying, but because they were still living on the slavery side of redemption they could not fathom rescue. Their spirit was too broken to even have a spark of faith. Their bondage was too burdensome to dream of a Promised Land.
But this is one reason I really love the LORD. “He knows our frame, he remembers that we are but dust”. The Israelites are not simply being stubborn and discontent here, they are broken and God knows that. And because of this He is going to rescue the Israelites whether they believe Him or not; at least in this instance.
It Doesn’t Change the Promise
A good husband does not respond to his broken-spirited wife only when she musters up enough strength to believe a ridiculously awesome and yet hard to believe promise. No, a good husband rescues His broken-spirited wife even while her spirit is absolutely crushed; so crushed in fact that she cannot even turn towards her husband.
Her broken spirit does not change the promise of God. All seven of those promises God fulfilled to the Israelites. And He has fulfilled them in an even mightier way through our redemption in Jesus. And He did it even while His bride was constantly vacillating between firm belief, broken-spirited dullness, and even disbelief.
I am glad that God is more dedicated to the glory of His name than to responding to my varying frames. Perhaps that is why I have always taken such encouragement from this gem by John Bunyan:
“One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him.
I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness IS Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.
Now I could look from myself to him and could reckon that all my character was like the coins a rich man carries in his pocket when all his gold is safe in a trunk at home. Oh I saw that my gold was indeed in a trunk at home, in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption.”
The most vital thing in our life today is union with Christ. If we have Christ then we have everything…yes, even when in a “bad frame”.
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