Monday, September 7, 2015

Loneliness in Grief: How God Responds to Our Crying Out


           In the last post, we talked about crying out to God in our hurt, our pain, our grief. We have loneliness that we cry out to God about, too. When loss strikes, we feel so terribly alone. Abandoned. But are we? Funny thing about crying out to God, though. I mean really, sincerely, passionately crying out to God as though you have a belief—even an inkling—that He exists and might hear you. Even while we’re crying out, we harbor doubts that anyone out there is listening to us, or even cares. Rest assured, beloved, that He hears…and He answers.

            To prove my point, let’s return to the passages I noted last week and get the rest of the story on the events.

            In Exodus 2:23 we read: “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.

            Continue into the next two verses, and you read about God’s response to their crying out: “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.”
            Read the next 12 chapters in the book, and you’ll discover just how dramatic an acknowledgement it was; on what a grand, miraculous scale sometimes God works. Do you know about those ten plagues God visited upon Egypt? Sometimes God answers in big ways!

            In Exodus 17:4, we heard Moses crying out to God to intervene because he’s terrified that the Israelites are going to stone him because they’re so disgusted with him. What does God do? He gives Moses a step-by-step miracle solution in verses 5-7: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go.
            ‘Behold I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
            “So he called the name of the place Massah (Tempted) and Meribah (Contention), because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?”
            We can glean several points from these passages: First, when Moses cried out, God responded. Second, God answered Moses by giving him a concrete plan (which is always helpful if you’re feeling paralyzed by fear and indecision). Third, God has Moses take some spiritual and moral support with him—elders of Israel. Nothing like a little offensive line to make the quarterback (you) feel more secure and less alone. Fourth, God tells Moses not to forget that rod he used in front of Pharaoh and to stick in the Red Sea before God parted it. Nice visual picture, and reminder to the Israelites of God’s power and Moses’s position with God. Fifth, God supplies what the Israelites need in a dramatic way, and, in so doing, justifies Moses. And Moses has eyewitnesses in the elders. More support. (Reminds me of the verse: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”)

            In Numbers 12:13, Moses cried out for his sister Miriam’s healing. God does hear and heals Miriam, only after she is subjected to a 7-day humbling period, shut out and away from the others, with time to contemplate and repent of her arrogance and jealousy. (Ever been humbled like that?)

            In Numbers 20:16, the Israelites remember how they cried out and how God responded by protecting and saving them.

            In Deuteronomy 26:7, we again read about how the Israelites remember how they suffered, they cried out to God, God heard and removed their affliction of slavery and oppression.

            Joshua 24:7 is another reminiscence of the people crying out to God and His listening and saving response.

            Job crying out to God after his calamity and in his grief and illness is another good read—about God’s patient listening to Job’s diatribe and then His rebuttal, which is sometimes scathing in its tone.

            Today, though, let’s go to Psalm 116: 1-11, a Psalm of David, and we’ll read it first in the New King James Version and then in The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.

            I love the LORD, because He has heard
            My voice and my supplications.
            Because He has inclined His ear to me,
            Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

            The pains of death surrounded me,
            And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me:
            I found trouble and sorrow.
            Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
            “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!”
            Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
            Yes, our God is merciful.
            The LORD preserves the simple;
            I was brought low, and He saved me.
            Return to your rest, O my soul,
            For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

            For You have delivered my soul from
            My eyes from tears,
            And my feet from falling.
            I will walk before the LORD
            In the land of the living.
            I believed, therefore I spoke.
            “I am greatly afflicted.”
            I said in my haste,
            “All men are liars.”

Now The Message version—

            I love God because he listened to me,
                 listened as I begged for mercy.
            He listened so intently
                 as I laid out my case before him.
            Death stared me in the face,
                 hell was hard on my heels.
            Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
                 then I called out to GOD for help:
            “Please, GOD!” I cried out.
                 “Save my life!”
            GOD is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
            our most compassionate GOD.
                 GOD takes the side of the helpless;
            when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

            I said to myself, “Relax and rest.
                 GOD has showered you with blessings.
            Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
                 Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
            And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”

            I’m striding in the presence of GOD,
                 alive in the land of the living!
            I stayed faithful, though bedeviled,
                 and despite a ton of bad luck,
            Despite giving up on the human race,
                 saying, “They’re all liars and cheats.”

            Ever feel like David in your grief? Like hell and death are hard on your heals, relentlessly chasing you down, never letting up to allow you to take a breath? Squeezing and wringing your heart until it ruptures? Do you feel paralyzed into inaction, unable to make a decision, feeling as though you’re losing your mind and the entire world has focused all of its efforts to undo you? Do you speak out in haste, blaming others and everything else in life before thinking, because you can’t think straight anyway?

            Three important points are evident in this Psalm:

            First, when we cry out to God, He hears us. The visual picture we can get from this verse is one of a father leaning down to listen carefully to a child’s cry. Have you ever leaned down or knelt down to listen to a child’s cry or tear-choked plea? That’s how God responds to you when you’re doing the choking. He inclines His hear to hear you.

            Second, we learn that when we cry, God helps us. He is generous toward His children. Indeed, He is a God who also makes the sun to rise and shine on the people who reject Him. And He sends rain upon both the just and the unjust. Does He always answer in the way we want, as quickly as we expect? No, yet we can be assured He always responds in perfect time and with what we need.

            Third, when we cry out to Him, God heals us. Does He always choose to heal our sick and broken bodies and restore them to full, vibrant health? No, but He always heals our spirits. And believers can rest assured and rejoice in the knowledge that eventually we will be completely healed, in mind, body and spirit.

            In the process—which is often a long one—He changes our perspective on events and on our pain and suffering. He holds our hand and slowly walks through the storm-ridden valley and into the sunshine, to intermingle with the ones we thought were out to get us. We can eventually relax and rest.
            We can rejoice.
            And that gives us a clue to next week’s discussion: How do we respond to God after we cry out and He hears and responds?

So until next week,

Thanks for joining me!



If you’d like some musical encouragement to accompany your crying out and comfort seeking, you might like these two selections:

“Cover Me” by Mark Condon:
(If you’d prefer a real knock down, holy roller church version then you’ll want to see this version:

“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

            Are you still unsure? Then sincerely ask God to reveal Himself to you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. God wants you to call on him, to hold onto Him. When he spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, he said, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
            It’s the passage I clung to and prayed fervently when I ached to know God more, and have Him reveal Himself to me. And He was faithful in His response to this promise. Try it yourself and see if He doesn’t respond to you.

            And then let me know what happens!

(photo credit: <a href="">Infant Karenni Boy</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>)