Life is full of both hills and valleys. And when we’re in the valley, it can often feel dark and lonely. We wonder if anyone sees our sorrow. Does anyone notice our sadness? Does anyone care? There is something in human nature that longs to be noticed, cared about, loved. This is one reason social media has become such a phenomenon. Anyone can post their terrible day or their epic accomplishment to a world of virtual viewers who can then provide encouraging words within seconds. It can be a quick fix to lift our spirits, at least for a little while.
Lessons From Egypt
The Israelites were no different. They too wanted their misery to be seen and heard and noticed. They had been held captive in Egypt for centuries, working as slaves under the harsh oppression of Pharaoh. Although they had been blessed by the Lord in that they increased and multiplied greatly, on the heels of the blessing was a great sorrow: severe oppression and persecution.
As the Israelites became more numerous, the Egyptians began to fear that they would eventually mount an uprising. So they “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves” (Exodus 1:13-14). Pharaoh even ordered all the male infants to be killed. It’s hard to imagine the oppression the Hebrews must have felt. To be buried under loads of heavy physical labor, and on top of that, to fear that your new baby boy might be killed.
A Cry for Help
The Israelites’ pain and suffering made them turn to the only One who was able to change their awful circumstances. They groaned and cried aloud to the Lord for help. And the sovereign, Almighty God of the universe heard their cry. He was not immune to their enslavement and daily drudgery. He did not leave them to figure out their situation on their own. But he saw them and remembered the covenant he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:24): “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8).
This prayer of the Israelites was the beginning of the exodus of God’s people to the Promised Land. God would use their prayer as a means to start the journey from oppression to freedom.
Your Lifeline of Support
When you are in despair, where do you turn? Who do you cry out to? For me, it’s all too easy to reach for the phone, the computer, the fridge, or my husband. Just like the Israelites, we want our sorrows to be noticed and cared about, but for our rescue we often look to the things or people of this world. A piece of triple-chocolate cake can lift my spirits for a few short minutes, but that comfort is gone as soon as I’m left with a stray few crumbs and a dish to wash. Talking to a friend on the phone can bring encouragement and comfort as well, but if our conversation isn’t grounded in the truth of God’s Word, there is little hope to stand on.
Our True Comfort
The Lord wants us to cry out to him. He delights to hear our voice and the needs we have. He longs to be the first one we turn to when we are low in the valley. And even though he sees us and already knows our needs before we ask, he nonetheless calls us to pray to him (Matthew 6:6-8). Our prayers for help highlight God’s power and strength as the only thing that can truly rescue us.
If you are in the pit of despair right now, take heart, that your suffering does not go unnoticed. God sees you. He cares for you. And he longs for you to cry out to him for help. Whatever suffering we are experiencing is part of his greater plan to give us more of himself. It’s the wilderness times of life that will lead us to the Promised Land.
This article is adapted from Stacy’s brand new book Wilderness Wanderings: Finding Contentment in the Desert Times of Life from Cruciform Press (2017)