After the awesome miracles witnessed at the splitting of the sea, the Torah tells us - and we recite it daily during Shachris - "Bnei Yisrael saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Mitzrayim and the nation feared Hashem and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant." Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash, Beshalach 14:31) asks the obvious question. How is it that their fear of Hashem preceded their belief in Hashem? Shouldn't the order have been reversed? Only after one believes in the Creator is there the possibility of fearing Him.
He quoted the answer given by his Rebbi, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, the Mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva in prewar Europe. Rav Yeruchom was wont to say, "One cannot discuss emunah with a drunkard." It is only after the drunkard sobers up that he has the clarity of mind needed to discuss belief in the Creator.
Rav Wolbe cites a Medrash (Shemos Rabba 30:11) that corroborates this idea. Iyov, who suffered tremendous misfortunes, declared in his misery, "If only I knew how to find Him... I would set out my case before Him" (Iyov 23:3). Chazal explained his declaration with a parable. An officer once proclaimed, "Show me the king and I'll teach him a lesson." They then brought the officer to the palace and he observed the king blind a lieutenant, jail a princess, exile a general, cripple a captain and banish a prime minister. Consequently the officer announced, "I apologize for I was drunk and did not realize the power of the king." Likewise, Iyov was shown how Hashem caused Yitzchak to become blind, Miriam to remain in solitude due to her tzara'as, Avraham's offspring to be exiled, Yaakov to be crippled (in his fight with the angel) and Moshe to be banished from Eretz Yisrael. Consequently Iyov announced, "I apologize for I was drunk and did not realize the power of The King."
Without a proper appreciation of Hashem's exacting standards of retribution, a person is, to an extent, "in the dark." The emunah discussed in the Torah is not the basic knowledge that there is a Creator. After the miraculous redemption from Egypt, the fact that there is a G-d was not a subject for debate. The Torah is referring to an understanding and acknowledgment that every single aspect of the world is run completely and solely by Hashem. Although they had previously questioned the prudence of their exodus from Egypt, they were aroused from their "stupor" by the exacting punishment meted upon the Egyptians. This occurrence initiated a new level of appreciation of Hashem's providence in every aspect of the running of the world. The fear brought them to faith.
In a similar vein, continues Rav Wolbe, someone who is entirely caught up in a materialistic lifestyle, is for all intents and purposes a drunkard. There is no way to speak to him about emunah when he can't see past his bottle of wine i.e. his self-indulgent lifestyle. Only after he awakens from his stupor can he have the clarity of mind to discuss spirituality in general and belief in Hashem in particular.
Unfortunately, we have all too many alarm clocks trying to awaken us from our slumber. The terror in Eretz Yisrael, the tragedies and suffering that have befallen numerous people are all wake up calls from The King. These occurrences should instill awe in our hearts so that we wake up and realize that, "If this is the power of the King, then we indeed have been drunk up until now." Since we haven't appreciated His omnipotence and providence in every last aspect of the running of the world, He is trying to teach us a lesson in emunah. We need to wake up from the deep slumber brought upon us by our very materialistic world and rub our eyes to enable ourselves to discern Hashem in every facet of our lives!