March 12, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.
Everyone I know has felt desperate at some point in his or her leadership. Mine came when I started a company after spending years as part of a Fortune 500 company. Gone were the deep pockets of a large organization. Gone was the guaranteed salary to take care of my young family. We had built an innovative product prototype, but hadn’t yet produced a single working production model. Like many other entrepreneurs, I was betting the farm. Like many young entrepreneurs, there was little to fall back on if things failed, other than starting over. And, somehow, leaving the comforts of a large organization made things seem worse.
The journey of faith is like that. Like Abraham and Sarah, we are called to leave the comforts of the familiar. Like Israel in Egypt, we find ourselves in unexpectedly difficult circumstances. Rather than finding ourselves in the Promised Land, sometimes we find ourselves in a land not our own, making bricks for other people. We feel trapped and desperate. And, we cry out.
Walter Brueggemann, noted Old Testament scholar, observed that when Israel cried out in slavery in Egypt, the text does not say that they cried out to God. It simply says that they cried out (Exodus 2:23). Sometimes, even as people of faith, we are not sure if anyone is listening. We find ourselves alone and in trouble. And, we cry out.
And God heard their groaning … God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.
There is someone who is listening, even when there is no external evidence to support it. One of the mysteries of our faith is the apparent absence of God in trouble. I can understand why some people believe that God is remote and uncaring. Israel’s circumstance in Egypt, like some of our own experiences, would seem to suggest that if God exists, he seems unengaged with the world in which we find ourselves. Yet, the story of the Exodus reminds us that that is far from the truth.
I love the taut description of God’s engagement with Israel’s predicament in the Exodus story — God hears — God sees — God knows. This is deeply personal language. Despite appearances, God is intimately engaged with Israel’s history as well as our own. And, these words carry over to the call of Moses, which initiates Israel’s deliverance from slavery. Almost identical language is used, but now in the first person:
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.”
Somewhere in our journeys, things become desperate. “Call on me in the day of trouble,” is God’s great invitation to his people throughout history. This Lenten season is a good reminder that we serve the God who sees, who hears, and who knows. And, the story of Israel reminds us that God takes the long view. After all, Israel lived in Egypt for centuries before the Exodus finally came. Similarly, our deliverance may not come quickly. Still, we are invited to continue to cry out to the One Who Listens: “Call on me in the day of trouble.”
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you found yourself in difficult, if not desperate, situations in your life as leader? How did you respond in those circumstances? How did you feel?
Do you find it difficult to turn to God for help when you feel desperate? What makes it more difficult? What makes it easier?
How does the community of faith help you in turning to God in trouble?
How can you practice turning to God this Lenten season?
LORD God, we are grateful that you see us, that you hear us, and that you know us.
We confess that we often ignore you in the middle of our troubles. We live in a culture that expects us to be in control as leaders. Forgive us for believing our own illusions.
Thank you for reminding us that we can call on you in trouble. Thank you for reminding us that you are a “well proved help in trouble.” (Psalm 48:1, NRSV)
So, we humble ourselves this Lenten season to acknowledge and turn to you in all of circumstances, however desperate. Thank you that you always hear us in Christ. Thank you that you always see us in Christ. Thank you that you know us in Christ.
And, it is in His name that we turn to you. Amen