“When I felt secure, I said,’I will never be shaken.’ LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face,I was dismayed. To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:’What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.’ You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy (Psalm 30:6-11).”
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy
In his epic work on D-Day the World War II invasion of France by the Allies, Anthony Beevor tells of a massive bombardment on German positions during the conflict. The scale and effects of the bombing were literally earth-shattering.
Here is Beevor’s account:
“”At 05.30 hours on 18 July, the first wave of bombers flew in from the north to attack their targets. Over the next two and a half hours , 2,000 heavy and 600 medium bombers of the RAF (Royal Air Force) and USAAF (U.S. Army Air Force) droppped 7.567 tons of bombs on a frontage of 7,000 yards. It was the largest concentration of air power in support of a ground operation ever known. Warships of the Royal Navy off the coast also contributed a massive bombardment. The waiting tank crews climbed out to watch the spectacular dust clouds thrown up by the seemingly endless explosions. For those watching, it was unthinkable that anyone could survive such an onlaught.
Germans who endured the man-inflicted earthquake were stunned and deafened. The wounded and those driven mad screamed and screamed. Some, unable to bear the noise, the shock waves and the vibration of the ground, shot themselves.”
Beevor gives a further description of what the advancing Allied soldiers found when they encountered the Germans. He writes that they found one group of German soldiers who appeared to be asleep, untouched by wounds. However, they had been killed by shock waves.
The Allied soldiers also saw the effects of the bombing in other ways. Some German soldiers were so stunned they were unable to walk. If the Germans were unable to understand the incredible force on the other side of their lines, they surely did after this fusillade.
Sometimes pain is the only thing that gets our attention. This morning we were discussing this in a small group I meet with before dawn.
In our culture we think that we are basically good. We have been taught this for a good part of our lives. The emphasis in American culture is on feeling good about ourselves, i.e. on maintaing a postive self image.
The speaker during the early morning plenary session noted how misguided we Americans are in this respect. He noted that some researchers asked this question of different nationalities after a math test:
“True or False: I am good in mathematics.”
Sixty one percent of the Americans who answered indicated this statement was true about themselves. Only twenty five percent of Koreans said so.
The truth was that the American test takers scored abysmally on the test. The Koreans scored well.
Thus, when we encounter the truth that we have a huge number of flaws, we also meet great pain. From God’s point of view, this pain has a purpose. It’s meant to wake us up to our need for Him.
One of the men in the 100 plus folks who I meet with during the wee hours of Tuesday mornings died in a hiking accident over the weekend. Our moderator reminded of the pain of this when he spoke out a quote from C.S. Lewis. This great spiritual man and author said,”God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I admit it. I am extremely dense, like a lot of men. We men so selfishly goal oriented that the only way God can get our attention is through suffering.
For example, I recently came home from an outing and prepare to head to the office for a meeting. I had about 10 minutes to get to this meeting.
My wife greeted me at the door with a message from my doctor’s office. This message said it was urgent that I call them.
I told my wife,”I have to go to a meeting at work.” My wife replied,”They said it was URGENT!”.
I relented and called the doctor. I was told to report to a specialist “NOW”. I said into the phone, “NOW?”. The reply from the medical person was “NOW!”.
This got my attention. I got in my car and drove to the specialist instead of to my meeting at work.
God also shouts at meet when have financial problems or when I fail at some temptation. He screams when I have communication problems with my wife or one of my kids suffer.
I get so caught up with whether or not God is listening to me or not that I quit listening to Him. Thus, He has to yell.
Jacob and Rachel had this problem, too. As a result, when God didn’t answer their prayers for a child together, they arranged to solve the problem illegitimately.
Jacob listened to his wife screaming “Give me a children, or I die!” instead of to God. He succumned to the pressure and gave into his wife’s request to have children through their maid.
Somehow, Rachel thought this solved the problem. She felt vindicated. However, all their bogus decision did was lead to more problems. They forgot until they had created as mess that God was the One who granted life, not them (Genesis 30:1-24).
Our plenary speaker this morning pointed out that we have one big problem today. We have forgotten that we have a depraved nature.
He said that in the old days people would cry out for God’s mercy. Not anymore. It’s “I’m OK, You’re OK.”
It seems to me that this is why God has to perform His own shock and awe. Things are not OK. That’s why he has to bombs me and rock my world until I cry to Him for mercy.
He’s more than willing at that point to come through for me and get me back on my feet again. Stunned and beaten, I turn to Him and He provides His mercy.
On the old sitcom “Frasier”, the title character used to greet his callers with the catchphrase,”Hello ____. I’m listening.” They were patients calling for pychiatric advice.
After God’s shock and awe, this is now my catchphrase, too. “Hello God. I’m listening.”