Driving down the freeway in south Florida I look to my right and see a guy driving a red Lamborghini. I look to my left and see a young girl driving a Mercedes. Several minutes later I see someone in a red Range Rover. During other visits to Fort Lauderdale, Florida I notice scores of people on the beach—some young families, some retired couples, others by themselves sprawled out on their lawn chairs getting a tan. The scenery reeks of comfort; it smells of ease and relaxation. While at times I am able to enjoy this kind of leisure, more often than not it makes me nervous.
As I considered those precious souls commuting in their expensive cars or the beautiful beaches teeming with image-bearers, a thought came to my mind: If I were God how would I go about getting these peoples’ attention? Of course, the question assumes none of those people are Christians. I confess I might be wrong in my assessment. But let’s operate on the assumption that these people are not believers. Again, I ponder: If I were God how would I go about getting these peoples’ attention?
On the occasion I’m describing, everyone seemed at peace; everyone seemed self-focused, intent on pursuing their vision of the good life. How do we wake people up to the reality of God, to the realization that there is a forever, to the truth, beauty, and goodness of the gospel?
My mind goes to something C. S. Lewis said:
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
While I realize Lewis’s words may seem harsh, they kept playing in my mind over and over again. Honestly, I don’t know how else I would get everyone’s attention.
Then my mind went to several verses in Psalm 119. “Before I was afflicted I went astray,” the Psalmist wrote, “but now I keep your word” (v. 67). A few verses later he says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (v. 71). Then he concludes: “I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (v. 75).
Pain and mourning awaken us to what’s always been true—namely, that we are weak people in need of God. This is why Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting.” And this is why it goes on to say, “Sorrow is better than laughter” (v. 3), and “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (v. 4).
Wealth, comfort, and ease can deaden our souls to spiritual reality; they have a way of lessening the intensity of our need to commune with God; they cause eternal truths to rest lightly on us. The presence of God, the importance of prayer and worship, of grace, truth, and eternal life, can start to seem inconsequential to us.
So, in the words of the inimitable Spurgeon, learn to kiss the wave that throws you against the Rock of Ages. Wave upon wave may bring you to the end of yourself. You may find yourself at the bottom, but rest assured, you are not invisible. And, no, God won’t forget about you. “It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136:23).