Yesterday I wrote a brief note on my YouVersion about Psalm 22 but it is a thought that is still nagging at me this morning so I am going to expand on it here. We all know that life contains bad moments along with the good. Most people waste a great deal of energy trying to avoid the bad moments instead of learning how to deal with them when they happen because they will happen.
Bad things happen;
people get fired;
people get robbed;
plans fall apart;
it is a part of our lives. We have the choice to either be the victim in it or the victor. We even have little proverbs to encourage ourselves such as "Whatever doesn't kill you will only make you stronger", but we have a difficult time living it. The really tough thing is when God seems to disappear in those moments.
I wonder how many times we have felt that God has abandoned us in the midst of our trouble, when we find ourselves asking the question, "Where are you God?" I can't count how many times that question has tumbled out of my mouth as my troubles and circumstances felt as if they were going to overwhelm me. The psalmist had the same question:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent. (Psalm 22:1-2)
The thing I have noted about my own circumstances is that, despite the fact I don't see God, he sees me through. Despite the many challenges that threatened to overwhelm me I am still here. Even though I could not sense God in my troubles he was there to strengthen me, to work miracles, to give me the victory, to make something beautiful out of the ashes. I have survived.
The real question is not about our survival but the survival of our faith in the bad moments of our life. Some people say that the difficult times will only strengthen our faith but I do not believe that is true for everyone. It goes back to the earlier proverb of "Whatever doesn't kill (our faith) will only make (it) stronger". Some people will allow these times to strengthen their faith but others will choose to allow their faith to die in them. What makes the difference is found in Psalm 22.
The psalmist was being overwhelmed by his troubles and he could not see God. In the midst of his battle his source of strength had disappeared on him. He cried out but there was no reply. He desperately looked for some sign of God being with him but there was nothing. It is in this moment that we see the psalmist do something that made all the difference for him. He remembered the past. He started thinking about the faith of the previous generations and the miracles of his mighty God:
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed. (vs. 3-5)
As the circumstances of his own situation pressed in on him, as he thought of this current moment, as he thought lowly of himself, he remembered what God had already done for him:
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God. (vs. 9-10)
This was not a candy coating of his circumstances as we hear the psalmist pour out his lament before God. He did not ignore his circumstances but laid it all out before God, being honest in the devastation he felt by all of this. Yet, as a result of his remembering the past, he acknowledged God's power to deal with his situation:
But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen. (vs. 19-21)
It is here that we see what faith in God does to our hearts. It is here that this decision to trust pours out of the psalmist in declarations and praise. It is a beautiful moment as we can almost physically see the transformation of the psalmist's heart; you should go read it in its entirety. Here is just a few highlights:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! (v. 23)
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. (v. 25)
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations. (vs. 27-28)
As great as this wonderful praise is, for me the most important moment of this psalm is the very end. The psalmist started off expressing his desperation. His faith was failing him because he could not sense God in his time of trouble. Then he made the crucial decision to remember the history of his people, when God intervened. Then he remembered what God had already done for him personally and who he was to God so that when he got to the end of the matter he was able to declare one thing: "he has done it".
In the midst of his trouble, before it was resolved, after he had asked for help, the psalmist declared "he has done it". It is finished, complete, I am rescued, God has saved me! From "where are you God" to "he has done it" simply because the psalmist chose to remember the faithfulness of God. The secret was to remember.
You know this is ringing as true for you as it does for me. We are a people of short term memory. God rescued us by intervening in our circumstances last week but this week we are all doom and gloom because we cannot see any possible way of being rescued this time. We have to stop this and start remembering so that the praises freely flow despite the circumstances of our life. We need to get some real "meat" on the bones of our faith and start showing the world that we are true worshipers of God. Remember the great cloud of hosts from Hebrews 11, people who believed without seeing. Remember the miracles, the testimony of the Bible, the testimony of our fellow believers, the testimony of our own past. Remember and allow it to change the condition of your heart so that you are able to make that declaration - he has done it! My friends, our faith is not weak; we only have trouble remembering in the times of darkness. So, make that decision and remember.