Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where is God when I Hurt?

Where was God for all of the suffering and martyred Christians? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Can I trust Him with my deepest concerns? These are questions that arise as quickly as the dust on a hot dirt road, but questions which the Psalms have examined from many different angles.

Disappointment with God had driven one Psalmist to conclude that following God was for naught:
  • Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. (Psalm 73:13)
God just didn’t seem to be working for him. Instead, it was the wicked who seemed to be inheriting God’s blessings:

  • For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills (3-4)…This is what the wicked are like--always carefree, they increase in wealth (12).
The Psalmist admits that he was tormented by the silence of God in the face of this horrible injustice and confusion:

  • All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning…When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me (14-16).
However, where his wisdom had utterly failed him, God opened the Psalmist’s eyes to the big picture. Everything then came into focus when:

  • I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors (17-19)!
Through this revelation, God assured the Psalmist that although it seemed that God was not at work, He had His own time-schedule. He also assured him that, although he didn’t see God’s blessings, they were rock solid:

  • Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you (24-25)
The Psalmist demonstrates that if we have these reassurances, we can endure the worst circumstances. When he saw the grand panorama of God’s plan, he was able to find rest for his tormented soul:
  • When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you (21-22).
Our Lord doesn’t want to feed our natural arrogance. Therefore, He often allows us to see how unspiritual we really are and how undeserving!

The knowledge of God made all the difference for the Psalmist. It provided all the comfort and elicited all the praise. While the Psalmist had received this revelation in the Temple, we can receive it through the Word and in prayer.

However, there is no assurance that we will receive this revelation in our timing. Sometimes, our Savior allows us to stew for a while. King David certainly did a lot of stewing:

  • How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)
It felt that his God had rejected him and had left him without any uplifting revelation. Nevertheless, he knew who God is and recalled His goodness, reminding himself that His grace was certain:

  • But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me (5-6).
Sometimes, surrendering to praise is our only recourse as we continue to contain our tears. Meanwhile, we ask ourselves, “God, I don’t understand your ways. Why are You so slow in responding to my cries? And why must I wait for so long?”

Part of the explanation is that we don’t know what’s good for us. We think that having our prayers answered in a timely fashion is good, but we might fail to see the hidden costs. While many are certain that by winning the Lotto, they would be happy, most of the time, such a win was actually a loss. It eventually brought misery.

We also fail to understand the necessity of suffering. Only after thirty-five years of following Jesus can I say, along with David:

  • It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71)
In my earlier years as a believer, I was unable to see how much was wrong with me – I wouldn’t allow myself to see this – and how much refinement I required. If these things are true about us, we need to entrust our concerns and demands to God’s will. King David learned that waiting was a virtue, especially in the midst of his pain and uncertainty:

  • I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)
David had learned the necessity of waiting. He concluded by praying that we might also learn the same lesson.

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