As we continue on our journey through the Amidah, the next prayer is for deliverance from affliction:
Look upon our affliction and plead our cause,
and redeem us speedily for your name’s sake,
for you are a mighty redeemer.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the redeemer of Israel.
Notice that the Israelites were not doubting God’s ability to deliver them; rather, they were calling out to God in confidence that He both could – and would – come to their aid. They remembered what God did to bring the nation of Israel out of Egypt. Exodus Chapter 15 is Moses’ and Israel’s song of praise for God’s intervention with the Egyptian army, drowning the entire army in the Red Sea. Notice in particular verse 13:
“In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.” (Exodus 15:13)
David often cried out to God during his troubles – he complained bitterly about his plight. But when he was done, he came away praising the Lord, knowing that God alone was his Deliverer, his Shield, and his Salvation.
In similar form, this Jewish prayer requests God’s providential help in time of need, but also acknowledges that His hand can and will provide the help, and humbly thanks God in advance of what He will do.
So what is our reaction when afflictions arrive on our front door step? Do we try to ignore them? Or throw a fit? Do we wear ourselves out to get rid of it ourselves? Do we impose timelines on God’s deliverance? Or do we bring it to the Lord and ask for His help?
Our response to the Lord must not be contingent upon His immediate removal of the affliction. Sometimes the Lord uses hard times in our lives to make us more like Him. Paul prayed three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh” from him. God answered Paul, but not in the way he expected:
“But He [God] said to me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Job was also another great example of trusting God when life fell apart. After losing everything – his family, his possessions, his livelihood, scripture tells us that he trusted God, and did not say anything evil against the Lord (Job chapter 1).
C.S. Lewis aptly observed, “I have seen great beauty of spirit in some who were great sufferers. I have seen men, for the most part, grow better not worse with advancing years, and I have seen the last illness produce treasures of fortitude and meekness from most unpromising subjects.” (The Problem of Pain)
As I write these truths, I do not take them clinically or as head knowledge only. I think of the news I received this weekend – of a friend’s cancer coming back; of a young man serving the Lord with his whole heart unexpectedly going home to meet his Maker, leaving a wife and five young children; of a student struggling in classes and doubting God’s calling and direction. These are matters of the heart, and they hurt. But our God promises ultimate redemption and rescue from afflictions for all, but in His time.
Until then, we keep our eyes on Him, our Rescuer, our Redeemer and Healer of our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies.