First Off…read Psalm 44!
Perspective is an interesting thing. And it’s interesting because having “perspective” always comes AFTER the fact. You jump to harsh conclusions and react a certain way – but it’s only later when you see it from a different perspective that you gain new insight. Maybe you see how silly you reacted or how you gain new understanding from someone else’s point of view.
But does that work with God?
It should. Job eventually gains it at the end of his book when the Lord speaks (Job 38-42) but it only comes after he keeps pushing God for an answer to his current state. And what I find healthy and good about the book of Job is that so many of the questions Job asks are questions I TOO want to ask of God – but ultimately just as Job finds truth and peace in who God is and what he is doing that is BEYOND JOB I too am reminded that I am not insignificant…but there are so many things that I cannot fathom…and I am OK with not knowing what all God is doing.
The psalmist is taking a page out of Job. They are declaring how good God is and how they simply trust in him alone and nothing else (6-8)…but despite all of that God, to them, has rejected them. Given them over to be “devoured like sheep” (11) and scorned and taunted by the people and nations around them. They are so confident in their faithfulness to God that they see themselves as almost perfect in their worship of him. They don’t stray to the left or right, they haven’t forgotten his name (20) and have been strictly adhering to their covenant (17). What’s the deal God? Why are you doing this to them? Ultimately, the end of the psalm gives us the question that they are struggling with: “Why God have you abandoned us?”
- Me: (praying) “God – I really need you right now…”
- God: “Hello! Thank you for calling. I’m away from my phone right now but leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Remember…wait for the beep!”
Do we really think or believe that it works this way?
Ultimately for me this isn’t really the right question – nor is it a fair one. Has God ever abandoned His people? Has God ever fully forgotten who they were? We see numerous examples of the Israelites THINKING they were abandoned – but simply because God doesn’t answer or save them when they want doesn’t mean he’s off running errands and can’t be with them right now.
We believe in a God who is omnipotent, omnipresence, and omniscient. Who is everywhere, knows everything, and is above all things. There is no end or beginning to his name or his power or knowledge. And so how could God not be somewhere or “forget” something if we just proclaimed those things? To say that he has “forgotten” or is busy is to say that he cannot DO something. So the REAL question is why? Why would God allow them to “live in disgrace” (15) and be “plundered” by their neighbors (10)?
We need, for one thing, to understand that this was the times back then. The Israelites were surrounded by hostile nations. And just as they attacked others they too were subject to be attacked. And so it is in the midst of this chaos that they remember what God had done in the past (protecting, carrying them through, providing for their ancestors) and they begin to lament and cry out for THAT kind of work now…again.
I think this is a really good theological discussion that one should have – but it’s not the time or space to do it here…but it does bring up a really good question: Why? If I am in prayer with God daily, if I give thanks to Him consistently, if I worship him and him alone why is it that things happen that seem outside of His goodness? Why do I lose my job? Why does my mortgage fall through? Why are all these health issues happening to me and my family? Why are my parents getting divorced? Why did my cousin, who was so young, die?
Can you relate?
The fact is that bad things simply happen. And many things happen that we wish they did not and simply because we are a “good Christian” doesn’t mean we are then protected from all of life’s blows. And if you’re anything like me – even the smallest thing is sometimes hard to see over and beyond. We see a challenge before us and we lament and struggle…sometimes even succumbing to the pain and agony. We fail. Even when just over that hill could have been rest and peace – we don’t see it because all we see is that which stands before it – blocking it.
I’m reminded of Dori in Finding Nemo who, even in the worst situations, tells herself to “just keep swimming…just keep swimming…” I think we need to be Dori at times.
Paul writes in Romans 8:31-39 that we are more than battle-hardened fighters. We are more than people who fight day in and day out. We are conquerors. Because Christ died for our sins and justified us by his blood we have already been given what is beyond that we cannot see. Because Christ loved and died for us there is nothing that can separate us from his presence and the ultimate glory that awaits us.
The psalmist reminds us that even the most ardent and faithful believer can struggle when things seem dark – but let us NEVER forget who God is and what he has done. Let us NEVER be so bold as to shout aloud that God has forgotten or abandoned us. And let us ALWAYS remember that Christ paid the ultimate price for us. And not only that but remember Pentecost! Remember the PRESENCE of God, his Holy Spirit, coming TO us and dwelling IN us.
How can we be “abandoned” or “forgotten” when the Spirit is living in us? How can we be forgotten or abandoned when God did everything, even dying, to pull us back in?
Yeah – I need to remember that. Always.