What Happens When We Cry Out to God

Frightening. Unprecedented. Tumultuous. Uncertain. You don’t need to read any farther to know exactly what I’m talking about. In the past week we’ve watched our world go crazy, not unlike it did one Tuesday in September nearly two decades ago. However, unlike the aftermath of September 11, 2001, when churches were bursting at the seams, this Sunday they will be eerily empty. Many people wiser than I have already written about how to grapple biblically with the COVID-19 outbreak, so that’s not what this post is about. Well, not exactly.

 If nothing else the pandemic we’re facing has brought us toe-to-toe with the reality we already knew in theory: God and God alone is sovereign. Not one virus has entered an unsuspecting host without God’s knowledge. While we wonder how long the quarantine of the world will last, God is already there, graciously guiding us to the end. In the meantime, among the good-hygiene and social-distancing practices that we’re all exercising, we cry out to God. We have no choice but to bring our fears, anxieties, needs, and concerns to His throne. And when we do, we can be assured that our cries do not fall on deaf ears.

The children of Israel weren’t facing a pandemic, but they were in a hopeless situation. As the curtain drops on the book of Genesis, Jacob’s family is happily dwelling in Egypt where Joseph is a high-ranking official. However, when we turn the page to Exodus, we see that a new chapter has begun in the life of Israel as well. A new king, one who “did not know Joseph,” has taken the throne (1:8), and the children of Israel have multiplied prolifically. Their numbers are so great that the new Pharaoh views them as a threat to his kingdom, so he enslaves them. Still their population increases. In response, Pharaoh attempts to have all male babies (potential soldiers who could depose him) killed. Meanwhile he compels his slaves to more rigorous labor. Finally, with their backs breaking under the weight of their affliction, the sons of Israel cry out to God. The next words of Scripture couldn’t be sweeter: “And their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God” (Ex. 2:23). In the final verses of Exodus 2, Moses pulls back the curtain of heaven to tell us what happens when God’s people cry out to him.

God hears.

It’s simple, isn’t it? Maybe too simple if we’re honest. Our cries for help and pleas for relief often seem unanswered, and we’re tempted to believe God must not have heard us. If He had, surely, my circumstances would have changed by now! However, Moses tells us that “God heard their groaning” (2:23). From what we see later on about the Israelites, I’d be willing to guess that they thought He hadn’t. After all, Moses was in Midian tending sheep. It would be years before he would show up with Aaron and take on Pharaoh! Yet God still heard. Not one groan slipped His notice. David echoes this sentiment as he proclaims, “You have…put my tears in Your bottle” (Ps. 56:8). My friends, as we cry out to God, we must fight for the faith to believe that He hears.

God remembers.

God not only heard the cries of His people, but He “remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Ex. 2:24). He had promised the patriarchs that their descendants would have a land of their own, that they would be a great nation, and that their nation would be blessed and be a blessing to the rest of the world (Gen. 12:1-3). From where those slaves in Egypt were standing, it sure looked like God had forgotten that He had ever said those words. And from where we’re standing, maybe it feels like God has forgotten one or two of His promises to us. Of course He hasn’t forgotten, but maybe we have.

  • God never promised us perfect health, but He did promise perfect strength in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)
  • God never promised us prosperity, but He did promise us abundant life in Christ. (John 10:10)
  • God never promised us convenience, but He did promise us sufficient grace for every trial. (2 Cor. 12:9)
  • God never promised us a life on earth without suffering, but He did promise never to forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)

God has not forgotten or foregone a single promise He made to us. Let us, then, take hold of those promises and pray confidently, knowing that He will fulfill each one of them.

God sees.

God doesn’t just hear your cry. He sees you and is intimately acquainted with your circumstances. In His omniscience He sees both the global and the individual. While He knows exactly how many people the world over have been infected by COVID-19, He also sees your situation. He sees your anxiety. He sees the feebleness of your faith. He sees the hit your investments are taking. He sees the empty rolls of toilet paper piling up. He sees your children and their fear. None of it escapes His notice—or His concern as we learn with the next phrase.

God takes notice.

Not only does God see, remember, and hear; He also cares. The perfect Father who would never give His son a snake or a stone in place of healthy food, takes notice your circumstances. He knows what it is to suffer and to be tempted to sin in the midst of suffering. Remember, He was tempted in every way that we are; and He was tempted in the things that He suffered, yet without sin—so He could come to our rescue! (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). As you cry out, fight for the faith to remember that God takes notice of and understands you. He’s not shaking His head, ready to scold you for asking for something so trivial. No, as Peter assures us, we cast our cares on Him for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Your suffering is not invisible to God. He has taken notice!

God takes action.

I can imagine that the Israelites figured their prayers had gone unheard. And if Exodus 3 (all the way through Joshua!) didn’t follow chapter 2, I’d say they were right. After all, what good is a God who hears and cares if He doesn’t do anything? Though we’re told about the Israelites’ enslavement in the beginning of chapter 1, we’re not told that they cry out to God until the end of chapter 2. Immediately after they do, though, we see God put the wheels in motion to deliver them—and to do it in dramatic fashion! The burning bush is just the beginning. Staffs will turn into snakes, the greatest river in the world will turn to blood, plagues of frogs, locusts, boils, and darkness will overrun the mightiest empire on earth! Oh, and don’t forget God will literally rip a sea in half so that His people can escape to safety! Yes, God will take action!

 He has done no less for us in His Son. In the midst our enmity and hostility toward Him, He took the weight of our debt upon Himself. He gave His only Son to absorb every last ounce of His wrath against our sins so that we could enjoy every last ounce of His righteousness for all eternity. While the action He takes against the coronavirus may not be on the timetable we would choose, may we look to Calvary and have no doubt that the action He has already taken toward us is enough. Yes, our present circumstances are about as stable as a plate of Jell-O in the sun, but we rest in something better. As the old hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock [we] stand. All other ground is shifting sand.”[1]

Cry out to Him. He hears. He remembers. He sees. He takes notice. He takes action.

[1] “The Solid Rock” by William Bradbury

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