Serving the High Plains

Bible: Are you too hurt to believe?

“Pastor, all that stuff you talk about is fine for you, all that Gospel stuff. But I live in the real world. I’ve learned that promises are made to be broken. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times it’s happened to me, but I can show you the scars. When a thing sounds too good to be true, it is. I need real help, and all you’ve got for me is pie-in-the-sky fairy talk.”

Maybe you’ve never said or thought something like that.

Well, I have. I’ve been hurt so deeply that when people repeated to me the promises of God, they did not strike my ears as good news, but as taunting.

The people of God were in a place like that at the beginning of the book of Exodus. They had been enslaved for the last 200 years in Egypt. The cruel tyrant, Pharaoh, had ordered the death of all their newborn baby boys. Five generations’ worth of prayers, crying out to God for help, had been like a volley of arrows, shot up into a silent, uncaring sky. They eventually fell back to earth and stuck in the dirt.

When God did show up, he sent his servant, Moses, to announce the glad tidings: their oppression was at an end. Their deliverance had come. Soon, they would be free!

This was the substance of that announcement, from Exodus 6:6: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.”

All their prayers had been heard! Isn’t that great news? I mean, isn’t it?

Verse 9 goes on to say that the people “did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage.” The English word, “despondency,” is trying to deal with a Hebrew phrase that literally means “shortness of spirit.” Other attempts to communicate what that means include “anguish of spirit” or brokenness.

If a person falls into a pit, you can throw him a rope as a lifeline. But what if he’s been there so long that he has no strength to grab onto it? That was Israel, living and dying in bondage, a state that the Bible will later label an “iron furnace.”

There are times when a small bit of hope can sustain you and get you to the other side. There are others, when that same bit of hope seems like a sadistic prank. Lucy’s going to pull the football away again, Charlie, so don’t believe her.

Get beat up enough, and you’ll learn to stop putting yourself in a position to take another beating. That’s where Israel was when Moses tried to announce good news. I imagine someone muttering cynically, “Yeah? I’ll believe it when I see it.”

God didn’t hammer them for their wariness. He showed up. They saw it. He kept all of his promises.

Whatever low place you occupy now, however it’s beat you down, this is not a taunt. I promise that if you bring all your brokenness and anguish of spirit to Jesus, he’ll show up for you. That’s what he does.

Gordan Runyan is pastor of Tucumcari’s Immanuel Baptist Church and author of “Radical Moses: The Amazing Civil Freedom Built into Ancient Israel.” Contact him at:

[email protected]

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