I know there are times when you feel detached from The Lord, even when you have not sinned, even when you are doing everything a good Christian does. You’re going to church, you’re spending time with Him, and you’re reading the Bible. But somehow you are still being persecuted, you are still suffering. What do you do in times like that?
What do we do when it feels like our prayers are hitting the ceiling instead of being breathed in by Holy God? We trust God. We remember all the miracles, the guidance, and the good He has done for us. We trust that He hears us and knows what is best for us. We remember the truth, God will never leave us nor forsake us. Verses 1-3 read,
“O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.”
It was not Israel that won the Promised Land for themselves. It was God Almighty who gave it to them. He defeated their enemies. It was not their strength but His. What is it in our lives that we’ve taken credit for that we should be thanking God for? What gifts and talents do we have that we have not acknowledged are from God and used them for His Kingdom? God loves us so much. He enjoys giving us blessings, fighting for us, and bringing us to the city He has promised us in eternity, New Jerusalem. When we remember all God has done for us so far and all He did for those in the past, we are reminded that we can trust Him to carry us through all our present trials and all our future hardships. Verses 4-8 read,
“You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7 But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah”
Didn’t He save us before? Didn’t He vindicate us? We can trust in His strength not ours. We can have faith in His plan instead of our own. We can believe that salvation is ours and that eternal life began the moment we submitted to Him as Lord and King. Even when we are in the midst of persecution, tribulation, and suffering we can thank God and praise Him. He used our past suffering for our good and He is using our present pain for our good, and He will use our future experience for our good.
That means that sometimes we do go through persecution, hardships, and pain. That means that sometimes God will test our faith. He doesn’t do it to punish us. He doesn’t condemn us. He strengthens us and He shows us who we have become in Him. He holds up a mirror and lets us see His reflection looking back at us with immense and stalwart love. Our Father hasn’t forgotten us, instead He let go of the bicycle. He is so proud of who we are becoming and what we are doing. If He had never let go of the bike, if He had not proven our faith we would never know we could ride that bike wherever we needed to go. Falling is not fun and the injuries it causes are painful but we get back up, we get back on, and we trust God when He tells us He will always be there with us.
The author of this psalm felt the heaviness of the ordeal he endured. He could see that God was allowing the enemies of Israel to oppress them. Verses 9-16 read,
“But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.”
But he prayed anyway, he trusted in who God was and he remembered all God had done and promised. He didn’t stop praying because times were hard. He didn’t stop believing that God is awesome because of his pain. And he didn’t stop praying for deliverance or believing that God would save him. Verses 17-22 read,
“All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
These verses reflect the agony of suffering and the hope of maintaining and exercising faith. Look again at verse 19.
“yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.”
What does the shadow of death bring to mind? Psalm 23:4 says,
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
God didn’t promise we wouldn’t walk through darkness or experience the effects of the evil of the world, but He did promise to be with us, and to use it for our good. (Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:28-29). He did promise that our response would be a testimony to the lost. (1 Peter 2:21). In Romans chapter 8 Paul quotes verse 22 of this psalm. Let’s read a portion of that profound chapter now, Romans 8:31-39 encourages us through the worst of troubles.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Do you see how much God loves us? He is making us better and stronger because the world will war with Him and therefore us. But we are overcomers and victors in Christ. We are united with Him and cannot be separated from Him.
God can handle our honesty. He knows whether our words and thoughts reflect our heart. Because we are indelibly intricately inseparably united with God we can be sincere about our feelings. Often times when we bare those thoughts that are born from our flesh, God reveals our hearts to us and makes it possible to repent and further solidify our faith and trust in His greatness. Don’t be afraid to ask God for help. Don’t be afraid to say, “Yo, God did you forget me?” He will remind you He has not. The psalmist wasn’t afraid to authentically ask God to rescue Him, even when his attitude seemed irreverent. Verses 23-26 read,
“Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”
Just remember this, The Lord loves you. He loves you deeply, consistently, and without condition. You cannot earn His love. You cannot merit His favor. How do you know this? Because Jesus died for you long before you were born. He died for your salvation before you took your first breath. He loves you so much. Remember that and trust Him through all your hardships. Celebrate Jesus no matter what you suffer.