The kids were beyond excited. Papa was treating us to dinner out at a restaurant. Not just any restaurant, a buffet. Not just any buffet, Hometown Buffet (I made Jeff promise not to instagram any photos of us there, but then here we are … the secret’s out). For this one night the kids could choose anything they wanted to eat and I would keep all my food-snob comments to myself about pesticides and GMOs and feedlots and HFCS. Corn on the cob and pizza? Absolutely! Mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets? Eat your heart out. Popcorn shrimp and beets? Pile ‘em on! (Okay, that was me.) I even let them each have a taste of Icee, that bright blue (poisonous) concoction flowing freely from a dispenser. They were in heaven.
When we arrived it was Family Night, so each kid received a balloon. They were delirious with joy. However, Dutch’s wasn’t sealed correctly so within a matter of minutes his balloon was completely flat while Heidi’s bopped happily in the air.
He was crushed. Somehow the excitement of the evening and the busyness of the restaurant and the dozens of food options in front of him completely overwhelmed him (me too!) and he was so upset he wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t stand in line (it was long) to get another balloon. He couldn’t think rationally. And even though Jeff sat alone with him for 5 minutes trying to talk reason into his brain, he couldn’t get himself put together. Finally, they walked over to me, I suggested we just go eat together, and Dutch agreed and was absolutely fine. Jeff (understandably) felt frustrated. He had suggested that same exact thing for 5 minutes straight:
Why hadn’t Dutch listened to him?
I thought of Exodus 6: “Sometimes people are too crushed to hear you.”
See, the children of Israel get a really bad rap. Yes, they complained. And complained and complained and complained. But if I read through the exodus story and honestly put myself in their shoes, I must admit I’d be complaining too.
And a short sentence from Exodus 6 might help us be a little more patient with the people in our lives who don’t hear us.
Moses returns to Egypt with high hopes. He’s excited to free the nation of Israel from Egypt’s slavery, and God speaks life and encouragement to Moses, promises of hope. So Moses takes courage, and goes and repeats all of these words of hope and reassurance to the people of Israel,
“But they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.” (6:9)
I always focus on the part where they don’t listen to Moses. Listen to him! I think to myself. Listen! Quit complaining and not having faith. See the great things before you! Believe!
But their spirits were broken.
They couldn’t listen. They couldn’t hear. They had no spark of hope or faith left in their hearts. They had endured harsh slavery. Their spirits were broken. It was as if Moses was talking nonsense. They had seen no good, no hope, no life, no promise. How could they believe Moses’ words? All they knew was cruelty, slavery, hate, bondage. Their spirits were broken.
When God calls us to minister (and he calls all of us to minister) He calls us to give hope to those whose spirits are broken. And, if their spirits truly are broken (because of any form of harsh slavery that is sadly present all over our world), it is possible that they cannot listen. They cannot even muster up the strength to believe the good news. They may not see the vision you see. They have been blinded by hurt, their sense of hope seared by pain.
Even though it was only a balloon, it was a picture of Dutch’s heart, so when it was crushed so was his spirit, and it took some time before he could hear.
So what do we do? We share words of hope, life, and truth with others, and if someone cannot listen, we must carry on anyway. Rather than get frustrated or angry because they cannot see the promised land, we must, like Moses, continue to pursue their freedom, their good, whether they can see the light or not. If we hold out our hand they bite it (!), we must hold out our hand again.
And again and again.
Remember these words, “They might have a broken spirit.”
This doesn’t excuse others’ sins, but it covers them (1 Peter 4:8). It says, “It’s ok if you don’t listen. It’s ok if you can’t see the vision. It’s ok if you can’t see past your pain. I’ll still take your hand and help lead you out of slavery, help lead you toward the promised land, help you be all that God wants you to be.”
Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?
We live in a world of broken spirits. God, fill us with a compassion that quells impatience, an understanding that removes frustration. Help us see your people as you see them. And when our spirits are broken, help those around us to be patient with us, and fill us with your hope.
Is there someone in your life who won’t listen to your encouragement no matter what you say? Do you find yourself getting frustrated? How can you pray for that person, that God would heal their broken spirit, and how can you choose to continue to bless that person today? Thanks for reading.