When You Cry Out for Help– Part 1
Have you had moments in your life when you realized that you were completely helpless? It is not a fun feeling. The first time for me was when I was four. My dad died in a car accident, and my perception of the world was rocked. What had seemed secure to me was suddenly thrown into utter uncertainty. My young mind thought that my dad had just disappeared and, for all I knew, that could happen to everyone I loved.
One of the results of this was that I began to panic when my mom would leave the room. I remember looking up from my toys to find myself alone. Terror filled my heart, and my mind began to race. I knew that I could not take care of myself. The only thing I could think to do was to cry for help, so I would desperately yell, “Mommy! Mommy!” She always came running back into the room to reassure me that she was there and to remind me that my dad was with Jesus and that someday we would be, too.
What does God do when you cry to him for help?
My mom did a wonderful job of answering my cries for help. Still, even my four-year-old self knew that she was not omnipotent nor omnipresent. I was comforted for a moment by her response, but it wasn’t enough. I needed my heavenly Father. But in order to trust him, I also needed to know how he would respond. And that’s something everyone needs, whether you are four or ninety-four. What does God do when you cry to him for help?
Three Elements of God’s Response
One way the Bible directly answers this question is by showing how God responded to Israel’s cries for help when they were enslaved in Egypt.
“And the sons of Israel sighed because of their bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.” (Ex. 2:23-24)
Like me, Israel was completely helpless. They were trapped in miserable slavery under the cruel and abusive power of Pharaoh. There was nothing they could do to set themselves free, so they cried out to the Lord. Here’s what happened.
1. Their Cry Rose to God, and He Heard It.
Israel’s plight was so dire that all they could do was groan under the weight of oppression. I imagine that, even though you probably haven’t been in slavery, you know what that feels like. It may have been during a time when you were being falsely accused, or maybe when you were watching a dear friend self-destruct. Perhaps it was when you felt the weight of sin for the first time. You pray in those moments, but the situation doesn’t change immediately. Because you can’t see God, you wonder if he really hears, or if your cries are merely echoes in an empty universe.
There is no word you utter that does not find its way to the ear of God.
Take heart; God really hears. There is no word you utter that does not find its way to the ear of God. There is no such thing as an empty universe. Jesus says that God knows when even the smallest sparrow dies. Even though Israel would remain in slavery for a while, and even though their slavery would get worse before it was over, their Father heard their cries for help.
2. God Remembered His Covenant
Though God loves all people, he has a unique kind of love for those who belong to him in covenant relationship. To these people, God makes promises and then keeps them no matter what. God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would be their God and that their descendants (Israel) would be his people. He also promised that he would rescue them from Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land.
The fact that Israel was in this covenant meant that God was going to answer their prayers and act on their behalf. For God to remember something does not mean that he is recalling it, as if he’d forgotten. It means that he is going to take action because of the covenant.
If you have put your faith in a covenant relationship with Jesus, that means that when you cry out to God for help, he not only hears, but is committed to act on your behalf.
If you have put your faith for salvation in Jesus, then you, too, are in a covenant relationship with God. Jesus inaugurated a New Covenant when he died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for sin. Through faith in Christ, you belong to God as his child, and he belongs to you as your Father. That means that when you cry out to God for help, he not only hears, but is committed to act on your behalf, albeit in his time and in his way. No matter what you have done, when you pray in desperation, God remembers his covenant for your sake, too.
3. God Saw and Knew.
When God’s people cry for help, he sees and knows. Once again, God was neither deaf nor blind to the plight of his people. Even though he hadn’t rescued them yet, he saw exactly what was happening to them. The text also says that he “took notice of them.” The Hebrew word here means “he knew,” and it means, not merely that he cognitively understood what was happening, but that he was intimately acquainted with the entire situation. He understood both their outward suffering and the anguish of their hearts.
This means that when I panicked as a little girl, the Lord knew both that I was outwardly suffering – I really was helpless and needed real parents – and that I was inwardly suffering – my heart was wounded and needed comfort and healing as well. He knew me inside and out. The same is true of your circumstances as well, no matter what they are.
Though they were not rescued yet, God heard, God remembered his covenant, God saw, and God knew. The point is that it was completely inevitable that God was going to do something about their plight. Because he is God and because they are his covenant people, there is absolutely no doubt that he is going to answer their cries for help.
The same is true for every follower of Jesus, all who are desperately crying for help. No matter who you are, this is God’s response to his people’s cries. So as you suffer and as you cry out for help, you can know for certain that it is completely inevitable that God is going to answer.
What happens next, however, defies imagination: God himself comes to rescue his people. But we’ll save that for another blog.