“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7
How can you walk by faith when your eyes are blinded by tears? How do we reconcile our trust in God when circumstances, failure and injustice have crushed our dreams? I think about those heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, who “were all living by faith when they died…none of them received what had been promised” (vs. 13, 39). Did they lay on their death-beds and wonder why God demanded their faith, yet didn’t fulfill His promise?The writers of many of the Psalms were well acquainted with this conflict of faith in the face of disappointment. I find tremendous help in their honest writings.
Psalm 77, written by Asaph, a temple musician (think “worship leader”) ranges from raw angst and discouragement – “Has [the Lord’s] unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time?” (v. 7) to glorious praise – “You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoples.” “You lead Your people like a flock,” (vs. 14 & 20). How did he swing from despair to exultation? Verses 10-12 are the pivot point in this Psalm. Asaph says, “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal; the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.’”(v. 10-12) Look at those key phrases: “Then I thought…I will remember…I will meditate and consider…” Asaph determined to turn his thoughts around and remember and meditate on the history of God’s actions on behalf of His people – the miracles, works and mighty deeds. And as he followed this line of higher thinking, you can sense his spirit lifting as the words build to a crescendo that bursts forth in Asaph’s heart: “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?” (v. 13) He comes to the foundation upon which all faith must rest: God.
God is the point of our faith. Not just what He can do, but who He is.
David had the same change of heart and thought in Psalm 13 as he laments: “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?” (vs. 1-2) As Asaph’s Psalm pivoted on his change of thoughts, David’s turns on a single word: “But…” David says, “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.” (vs. 5-6) The change of thought and word came with the change of his focus.
Like both of these Psalmists, I have had seasons in my life when I assumed God had forgotten me, or turned away from me. Some were the result of other’s actions that brought me great harm and pain, but honestly most had my own fingerprints all over them; poor choices, sinful actions, disobedience, a lack of wisdom and failure to listen to the Spirit. Darkness, struggle and silence from heaven worked on my faith like a slow, wasting disease, and I cried out to God: “Where are You? Where is your love and grace? What have I done that you have turned away from me? Will you leave me in this pit forever?” Jeremiah’s words became my mantra: “He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed He has turned His hand against me.” (Lamentations 3:2-3a)
As I make baby steps toward spiritual maturity, I am learning to seek God for who He is, not just for what he can do for me. I want to know Him for the joy of His presence, and not only for His presents. I can find nowhere in Scripture that God says, “I want You to know all I can do for you.” But I lost count after 200 times that I read “That you may know Me…” In knowing God, we discover what He can do, but if we are only seeking Him for what we can gain we have missed the whole point of the relationship.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
How did the ancient heroes of the Bible stay firm in their faith in God? By knowing the God who was everything to them.
Let’s go back to Jeremiah’s words from Lamentations. As with Asaph and David, the prophet Jeremiah comes back to what (or Who) he knows so well:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall…and my soul is down cast within me.”
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail,
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,
to the one who seeks Him.”
Lord, thank you for Your never-failing love and compassion. I trust in You because You are faithful and You are good. When all seems dark around me, I will seek the light of Your face. Amen.