Do you know what the top-ranked greatest fear is? Public speaking. (This even outranks “death,” which is second.) There’s something ironic about this great fear. On the one hand, we’re terrified of public speaking, and yet, on the other hand, we’re crushed when people don’t listen to us. People can plunge their families into chaos because they weren’t being heard, while others can endure the greatest of trials because they had someone to talk to.
In your own life, have you experienced the power of being heard—or the pain of not? However simple it might seem, something which costs us no money at all, being heard is one of the most important things to us as human beings.
In Exodus 1 and 2, we find the Israelites in a terrible situation, but a glimmer of hope flickers just as the scene changes—someone hears them as they groan.
The Israelites’ slave labor was harsh. The Egyptians forced them to make bricks and build storehouses for Pharaoh. To this day, brick-making and stonemasonry are ranked among the toughest jobs. How much more brutal, then, must this have been thousands of years ago?
When the king of Egypt finally dies, the Israelites are woken from their enslaved slumber and muster up the energy to groan. The Egyptian slave masters probably thought nothing of it. Or maybe they looked at each other and laughed when they heard it. Yet, it was a groan heard by God. And when he heard it, he remembered his covenant with Abraham (Exod. 2:24).
Have you ever groaned in despair because you felt enslaved? Maybe you just keep messing up. You think, “If only I was more like [so and so] who seems to have it all together. They aren’t held back by my kind of struggles. Why am I the way I am?” Perhaps you groan because of broken relationships you care about: “If only I never said that.” Or, “If only I had reached out.” Perhaps you groan because of death, crying out in your heart, “Why did they have to go?”
Every human across every culture throughout all of history has experienced these groans. This is a human experience since, in the beginning, long before the wise and crafty Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites in Egypt, a wise and crafty serpent deceived God’s people in Eden, leading them into the curse of sin and death. This bondage to sin lies at the root of every other kind of bondage God’s people experience.
In these moments of deepest groaning, the Lord gives us an incredible promise of hope: “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isa. 65:24).” We have a God who hears us when we cry out to him. What’s more, we cry out to a God who has an answer for everything that makes us groan.
As Christ comes to deliver us from our bondage to sin and death, he too fulfills a covenant promise (Heb. 8:15). This covenant fulfillment establishes us as God’s children: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
Just as sure as God heard the Israelites because of the covenant he made with them through Abraham, so God hears us when we cry out to him because of the covenant he made with us through Christ. This is why we pray “in Jesus’s name.” We come to God our Father through Jesus Christ the Son.
In Romans 7, the apostle Paul groans because of his spiritual bondage to sin. In Romans 8, he cries out because of his bodily bondage to decay and death. Yet in all these things he can rejoice, knowing that God sent Jesus to deliver him (and us) from these things. He writes, “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1–2). We experience this now as the Spirit empowers us to live changed lives, but we will experience this in full in the coming new creation where we will be set free from sin and death altogether.
We groan because of the pains of sin and death, but we cry out to God as his covenant children. The good news of the gospel is that the God who hears Israel’s groaning from their slave labor in Egypt is the same God who hears our groaning from the pains of sin and death. Do not grow weary in crying out to God, because he never grows weary of hearing you.