That one time that God got hurt

Have you ever been hurt so much by something that it comes back to your mind time and time again for years afterward? I’m talking about something that still stings after a long time, even after you’ve reached resolution or closure on the matter. You can forgive all you want, and even be on quite friendly terms with the person who hurt you, but the twinge of pain still returns anytime you’re reminded of it. I’m sure that most of you readers can think of something like this.

I can.

Several years ago I had a close friend disappear from my life all of the sudden. They seemed to cut off all contact with me, and I couldn’t figure out why. This confused me, as I wondered if I had done something to upset them. Like any good relational coward, I waited quite a few months for this person to give some kind of indication of what was going on, but didn’t get a clue for some time until I confronted the person and asked what was up. Now, since then, this person and I have moved on, we talked it over and we’re very close friends again. However, I really cannot help but wince in pain when I think of those few months. It made so much of an impression on me that I start a minor panic if I sense that it might be happening again with any of my other friends. It’s something I quite readily remember.

This sort of thing has probably happened to everyone. It’s an event in your life that you remember, no matter how much you try to forget. It even comes up in conversation sometimes, if the subject warrants it. It’s just there, deep under the surface. Doesn’t show up often, but when it does, you know it.

Recently I ran across a message about an event in history just like this. The offended party in this situation? The Lord Himself. “What?” you say, “God being hurt?” Yes, indeed. In fact, it made such an impression on Him that He mentions it. A lot. Keeps bringing it up, in fact. Here’s the story.

When the people of Israel were wandering in the dessert, they came to several points where there may have been no food or water. They had recently (months ago) been redeemed from slavery in Egypt by God, through a series of amazing miracles. However, what was their response? They complained. They basically said, in so many words “We would rather You left us in slavery in Egypt. We’re starving! We have no water! You cannot be trusted to provide what we need. You do not care about us.” God provided food for them, in the form of Quail and Manna. But He took note of what they thought of Him. How do we know He took note? Because He mentions it in Deuteronomy 32, Deuteronomy 33, Psalm 81, and even thousands of years later in 1 Corinthians 10. It would seem that it doesn’t take much to remind God of this, wouldn’t it? Did this attitude actually wound Him? I think so.

This really resonates with me, personally. I cannot imagine a single thing anybody can do to hurt me more than the wound from hearing one of my loved ones say “You don’t care about me. What I’m feeling doesn’t affect you. Why should it? I’m not important to you.” What this boils down to is “I’ve never seen you invest anything in me.” That would sting coming from someone you love. I cannot even fathom the depth of pain for a God who had done what He did for Israel and received that response.

Before you think me vulgar for ascribing human feelings to God, realize that I haven’t “ascribed” anything that He hasn’t displayed in his Word, howbeit in the person of the Son. This same God wept over the people of Jerusalem, practically begging them to gather under the shelter of His wings. He wept at something so human as the death of His earthly friend Lazarus. It is true that God is not controlled by His emotions as we are. Conversely, can you find anyone else in the universe whose emotions would better reflect the reality of a situation? An omniscient God cannot fall victim to over-emotional misinterpretation. His Omnipresence dictates that his emotional state be unchanging, so there’s no roller-coaster ride with His “feelings”. If there ever was a fountain of emotion of the purest and most virtuous form, would it not be Almighty God?

So what lesson can we take from this? Well, what I realized is that there was a time Idid this myself.. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t always acknowledged what God has done for me, and I’ve expected Him to do more. I’ve looked at the life He’s given me, at the wonderful family I have, and the wife He provided to complete me, and my response has not been one of gratefulness. Rather, I’ve concentrated on the one thing He had not yet provided at that point, a son or daughter¹. I never actually came out and said this, but it was in my attitude. In the small moments, where my thoughts begin to wander. I did’t emphatically complain, but God could definitely see me longing for something I didn’t have. That’s envy, and it’s wrong. What a terrible thing to do to God!

How does this translate when taken in the context of what I wrote above? It would give God plenty of reason to bring up the subject of “Marah and the waters of Meribah”. I should be ashamed! It’s a convicting thing.

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