For the Journey: Times of Sorrow

May has not been my month.  It’s been one of those months where it’s one bad day after another.  The kind where you just wake up wondering what terrible thing is going to happen today.  If it’s not work stress; it’s home stress.  If it’s not home stress, it’s this major disappointment here or that major frustration there.  Added to all that has been the constant string of bad news.  This person we know is going through this horrible situation; this person we know is facing this health crisis; this person’s family is dealing with a devastating loss.  Then, just don’t turn on the news because the whole world’s gone nuts.  It’s been the kind of month that makes your heart ache, the kind that leaves you filled with sorrow, if not for yourself, for others, the kind of month that leaves you searching and longing for comfort.

I guess that’s why as I thought about what I would do after I finished Ephesians and it came time to start a new Sunday School project, I didn’t feel led toward a particular book or section of a book.  Instead I longed to revisit some of my favorite passages of Scripture, passages I’ve gone to again and again for comfort or passages that spoke to me at just the right moment and left lasting impressions.  I call them my comfort texts, and I certainly hope you have your own collection.  I started by writing out a list of the passages I wanted to look at, and I didn’t really know why, but I decided to start with the call of Moses, which was actually very close to the bottom of my list, but is a favorite passage of mine because I can certainly relate to having trouble speaking publicly, and I think we’ve all been guilty at times of making excuses, feeling like we aren’t up to the task, and wishing someone else could do the job when we feel God leading us to do something new and challenging, perhaps even frightening.  But it was a different portion of the passage that caught my attention as I was studying and writing out a lesson from it.

After God calls Moses by name and tells him to take off his shoes because he’s standing on holy ground and introduces Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He says, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows” (verse 7).  The Children of Israel had been in bondage for years.  Exodus 1:13-14 reads, “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:  And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field:  all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour,” so we know their sorrows were great.  Their lives were filled with little joy and great fear and hardship.  After all, Moses’ own parents had to hide him to keep him from being thrown in the river, such was the power and cruelty of Pharaoh, and I’m sure other parents weren’t so fortunate.

The Children of Israel were only human, so I’m also sure as they prayed and prayed yet still found themselves waking up day after day to the same tasks and the same cruel taskmasters, they must have wondered where God was and whether He even heard them.  We know He did, though, because He tells Moses, “I know their sorrows.”

And still today, God knows our sorrows.  He sees each tear, hears each prayer we pray in anguish, and He knows; He truly knows and understands the way we’re feeling, the depth of our hurt.  Others can say they know, but He knows. 

If you remember, things got worse for the Children of Israel before they got better, so the fact that God knows our sorrows doesn’t mean He will instantly act to ease them.  Rather, He will act in His time and in His way.  He loves us too much to act too soon and deny us the blessings and strength of character that come through hardships.  In the meantime though, we can take comfort in the simple fact that He knows.

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