More Than a Miracle

Have you ever just wanted to….grumble? I mean, have you ever just felt like you kept pulling the short sticks and wondered if life was some kind of cruel joke? Like all the long sticks got pulled out before you ever entered the game? I was wondering how it would be today, showing up to church on Mother’s Day, a bittersweet day for me as I rejoice over my first child, grieve over the loss of the second, and painfully wait for a third who never comes. And so it may have seemed odd to some that the topic of today’s sermon was suffering, but it felt appropriate to me.
Pastor Ken took us back to the tale of the Israelites being rescued from slavery, how God “saw their affliction” and came to them, just as He saw the despair of the nations and sent Jesus, just like He sees our sufferings today and is not far from us.

God saw their affliction under the Egyptians and He came to them. He came to them and rescued them and they were upset about it! And they grumbled…every step of the way. And every time God miraculously provided for them—a path through the Red Sea, bread, meat, then water—they were amazed, but almost instantly doubted He would do so again. Ultimately, they self-sabotaged and compromised their promise of entering the promised land by their unbelief and so the promise that was meant for them, was given to their children instead. They died never seeing the goodness that was destined for them.

I have to admit, nowadays when I listen to the story of the Israelites, I side with the people a bit more than I did. Isn’t that crazy? Look at how pathetic they are! But I get them. I think about what it must have been like to be them. I mean, had they done anything to deserve the slavery? No, not really. At least the Bible doesn’t suggest it. In fact, it suggests the opposite—that God was upset over the way they were treated because it was wrong and so He did something about it. For how many years had they been learning that to be a Hebrew meant bad things would happen to you—you would be owned by someone else, your baby boys would be slaughtered en masse, you would be mistreated in every way possible. For years. Maybe for generations. How many died crying out, but never seeing deliverance? Their brains were probably altered by the trauma to see everything as a threat, to expect everything to be a threat. Hopeless. Helpless. Despairing. Depressed. Anxious. This is what it was to be a Hebrew…they probably thought.

And then. God comes. God moves. God rescues. And all of a sudden, they’re supposed to trust Him! WHERE WAS HE ALL THIS TIME?! Why now?! Their skin was probably still swollen with the welts of Egyptian whips. They could still feel the searing pain of their brothers and cousins and uncles who, as babies, had been murdered in their lifetime, perhaps even in their presence. Maybe they still had trouble sleeping because, even after all these years, the nightmares were all too vivid. Were they just supposed to forget all that instantly?

I wonder if God was so patient with their grumbling, understanding that they were less hard-hearted than hard-headed. They didn’t know how to receive goodness. What a scary thing to consider. Wasn’t this deliverance too good to be true? This kind of thing didn’t happen to them! Surely the other shoe would drop soon. It always had.

They needed more than a miracle. They needed to be saved not just from their circumstances, but from themselves…even the parts that weren’t their fault, the broken brain, the broken heart…and the parts that were their fault, the refusal to hope, to be vulnerable again, to make God in their own image and believe that He was like them.

Pastor Ken wrapped the sermon around to the same truth for us: more often than not, we need to be rescued from ourselves even more than our circumstances. Miracles don’t produce faith; in fact, scripture would suggest it is the opposite. So how do we get to that place? The place of faith? The place of trust? How do we get to the place of wanting a transformed heart more than the miracle?

I can’t say I’m completely there yet, but I think I found a clue:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Sometimes we get our miracles (praise God!) and sometimes we don’t (praise God still!). Our faith is not built on the fulfilment of our desires or it wouldn’t really be faith. It is built on the choice to believe in the goodness and faithfulness of God, regardless of what happens. It is built on the person of Jesus “who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.”
Wow, He sure had transformed thinking, did He not?

I’m tired of suffering, but I’ll admit it has pushed me to change my mindset and challenged where I place my hope. I may never get the family I pictured in my head (although it’s not lost on me that the one I do have is amazing!!!), but my affliction doesn’t make God any less good. My lack of understanding doesn’t take away His faithfulness. My grief and outstanding prayers don’t unravel His kindness, nor His power. So my consolation is remembering my hope isn’t in this life. The goal is not for me to have everything the way I want it. My inheritance isn’t here. And my mission is still the same: to become like Jesus and glorify God in the nations. He is still with me.

And He is still with you.