Continuing our series on suffering, in this post we’ll look at how forgetting God’s name contributes to suffering and a crushed spirit.
Forgetting God’s Name
I’m just going to be frank here. Many times you and I as believers suffer in a way that’s not necessary simply because we forget God’s name. Oh sure, we believe in the redemptive work Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago on the cross to pay for our sins. And we believe somewhere down the road we’re headed for heaven, ultimately. But there’s a huge truth missing that dramatically affects us as we suffer, and even when we don’t.
Often times you’re a lot like Moses was when he was tending flocks living in exile from Egypt. Growing up Moses heard the stories about the great things God did in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. And Moses most likely believed in the promises for the future given to those patriarchs. But where was Moses at spiritually when he was living in exile, shepherding livestock in the wilderness? He believed in what God had done in the past with Moses’ fathers, and he believed in the promises given for the future, but what about now? Where was God now?
God’s Answer to Moses’ Question
One day while Moses is walking in the wilderness he encounters a bush burning with fire without being consumed. So Moses decides he should move closer to have a look. And when God sees that he moved closer He calls to him, “Moses, Moses!”
And Moses says, “Here I am.”
After a brief exchange God tells Moses, “I’ve seen the affliction of My people in Egypt, and I’ve heard their cry, I’m aware of their sufferings. So I came down to deliver them.”
Then God tells Moses He wants him to confront Pharaoh. But Moses says, “Who am I that I should go?”
After some persuasion Moses finally agrees to go but he makes this one request, he asks, “So when I tell the Israelites You sent me, what if they ask me Your name?”
And God tells Moses His name, He answers: “I AM WHO I AM. So tell Israel ‘I AM has sent me.'”
“I AM,” God said. Not I WAS or I WILL BE. “I AM.” And that’s the missing truth that causes us unnecessary suffering. (Exodus Chapter 3)
The Missing Truth About God
So often you and I believe in what Jesus did in the past. And we believe we’re headed for heaven in the future. But we neglect God’s presence in the present!
I have found my soul in this state so many times. And I’ve seen so many others make the same mistake: believing in Christ’s work in the past, and our destination in the future, but forgetting God in the present. Moses moved closer to the bush and God called to him. When we don’t move close to God each day He doesn’t call out our names. And we live without God in our lives. And there are consequences to living without the God of the present.
Nobody Really Understands
Do you ever have that feeling like no one really understands you? Know why you have that feeling? It’s because it’s true! The Bible says, “The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy.” No one knows you really. In fact the Bible also says, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the Lord weighs the motives.” So in reality, you don’t even know yourself. (Proverbs 14:10, Proverbs 16:2)
Concerning these two Proverbs, Timothy Keller puts it this way,
“You are so unique, and you are so hidden, and you’re so inward that nobody in the end, in the final analysis will ever really understand you. You’re going to have to basically go through life alone… Even the people closest to you, very often just will not understand you. And you can sense that. And it’s horribly disappointing. And this (Proverbs 14:10) is saying get over that. Don’t be shocked at being misunderstood.
“And (Proverbs 16:2) also says… you don’t even know yourself! You don’t know all that’s down there. You might have a better idea than somebody else, but only God really knows you.
“So if God is only someone you believe in, if He’s an abstraction, (or if you don’t believe in Him at all), if God’s not a Friend, if God isn’t Someone you know personally, if God isn’t someone you have a personal relationship with, if you don’t have sometimes a sense of God really with you, putting His love and His truth palpably on your heart, if you don’t have an intimate personal relationship with God, you are utterly alone in the world. You are absolutely alone in the world and human beings can’t live in that kind of isolation. They cannot. He’s the only one who can walk with you through every dark valley. He’s the only one who can understand. He’s the only one. If you don’t have Him, it’s not enough to be good or moral or even to believe in God in some general way. If you don’t have Him as a personal friend, if you don’t have an intimate personal relationship, a sense of real dealing with Him, you are utterly alone.”
How To Live With God In The Present
So you’re alone without Him. But how do we change that? How do we live with God in the present, not just believing in what He did for us in the past and His future for us in heaven?
One of the best people on the planet at living in the presence of God was Brother Lawrence. A self described large awkward man who was constantly breaking things, Brother Lawrence spoke of the importance of moving close to God and engaging Him in the present. He said to,
“Think about God as often as you can, day and night, in everything you do. He is always with you. Just as you would be rude if you deserted a friend who was visiting you, why would you be disrespectful of God by abandoning His presence?”
And he said,
“The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with Him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way. This is especially important in times of temptation, sorrow, separation from God, and even in times of unfaithfulness and sin.”
“You are young; profit by the sincere confession I make to you of the little care I took to consecrate my first years to God. Consecrate all of your years to His love; for, as for me, if I had known sooner, and if anyone had told me the things that I am telling you now, I would not have waited so long to love Him. Believe me, and count for lost all the time that is not spent in loving God.”
What can I say to you to persuade you? I spent most of my life believing in the God of the past, and the God of the future, and giving little care to seek the True and Living God, the God of the present. How I regret those years.
Don’t wait. Move closer. Give yourself to Him now. Do what Brother Lawrence did and speak “humbly and lovingly with Him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way.”
Surrender yourself to Him.
“Think of Him often. Adore Him ceaselessly. Live and die with Him. That is the real business of Christians.” -Brother Lawrence
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Read The Practice of the Presence of God.
Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)