Feeling guilty for choosing a podcast over my usual church service, I came to Sunday morning exhausted and ready to explain myself to God –the reasons why I was so tired were good, valid, excusable. I was ready to make my case. But, instead of the judgement I was expecting, I was met with a beautiful invitation: Listen, eat, delight, incline your ear, come, live.
The podcast sermon raised a sobering question from Isaiah 55, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” It’s followed by an invitation, “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:2-3).
I felt this gentle, kind conviction: “You don’t think I know what you need, you don’t think I care.” I had prepared for condemnation, but was met with this tangible compassion, this quiet reminder that God sees our circumstances and cares about us, and not just about what we can do for Him.
I realized that I often turn to the people who love me expecting compassion, while turning to God expecting to have to explain myself. In my trusted earthly relationships, I know I can bring my hurts, disappointments, and shortcomings into the light. Too often, I go to God with only plans and justifications and promises to do better. I’m quick to remember that God sees my circumstances and asks for faithfulness, but I sometimes forget that He also sees my circumstances and looks on me with compassion. That He isn’t standing over me asking me to jump higher, push harder, and get it together on my own. That when I’m feeling burnt out or broken or inadequate, He’s the one who already fully knows and invites me, come and live.
This is, of course, an issue of belief. I’ve forgotten who God is, that He is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). As they often do, this issue of wrong belief leads to issues of misplaced expectations. If we don’t believe that God understands our human limitations or cares about our hurts and disappointments, we will turn to people and projects and Netflix and self-care to give us the rest that only Jesus can provide. We will ask too much of the people around us, forgetting that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). We will miss His invitation to listen diligently and eat what is good, to delight in rich food and come, to hear and live.
When I remember that God looks on me with compassion, I don’t have to be so hard on me either –not for being tired or sad or finite. I can delight in His word and trust His heart and pursue obedience from a place of faithfulness instead of fear. As the Gospel has altered my standing before God permanently and completely, so it should alter my understanding of His character –all-knowing, all-sufficient, and overwhelmingly compassionate. I can stop pouring my efforts and energy and investments into that which does not satisfy, and come, again and again, and live.