"Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice." Psalm 51:8 (NIV)
This week has been really hard in a vicarious sort of way. I have a blog friend whose husband was diagnosed with brain cancer during the first six months of their marriage. That was eleven years ago. This week has been very difficult for them as he has lost more of his ability to get around without falling. He is also vomiting from the chemo that he is receiving in an effort to have more time with his wife and two young children.
I also found out that a dear friend of ours is having to involve the authorities over the death of a loved one. There are times when this life just stinks, girlfriends. Just plain stinks. Things get wrapped up somewhat neatly in a half-hour or hour-long television show, but that never happens in real life. There are just more questions sometimes than there are answers.
I keep thinking about what my darling friend, Holly, said to us in our Bible study on Ruth last semester (Holly, I miss you dearly!):
Expectations are premeditated resentments.
I have thought of that phrase a hundred times since I heard it. I cannot sum up life on a sin-sick planet in one phrase better than that. We expect a certain outcome that is rarely met to our standards. And somehow I am always shocked to my core over unmet expectations. I have experienced that shock enough times that one would think my reaction would be one of quiet acceptance. Hardly!! The seeds of bitterness can quickly sprout into a full-grown forest of gloom before I know it.
So what do we do when we don't know what to do? Over and over again, Scripture tells us to praise our God. What??!! Praise Him for this? I have thought. What good can I possibly find in this situation that has been so heartbreaking, when I feel utterly abandoned, betrayed, or confused?
A man named Asaph faced the same questions. He lived about 3500 years ago. Some things never change, sweet friend of mine. If we read the inspired Word of God in the Psalms that Asaph penned, we will be able to see that those same questions that you and I are asking today were asked by him so long ago. And they will continue to be asked until Jesus comes back for His bride, the church. Listen to these words and see if you can relate to his anguish over not being able to figure out a troubling situation:
Psalm 77 (NIV)
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
7 "Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
10 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.
13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
"...at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted."
"I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint."
"You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak."
Have I experienced all of those emotions listed above? Yes, yes, and yes. I have reached out my hands toward the heavens and found no comfort in doing so. I have remembered Him, and still my spirit has grown faint. I have spent sleepless nights, too troubled to even articulate why my mind will not shut off.
But what I have not done nearly enough is this:
"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."
I have anguished over what I cannot control instead of what I can. I don't think it is an easy thing to deliberately remember what God has done for me in the past, the miracles that I have seen Him perform in my own life, in the middle of the darkness. Instead of meditating on His faithfulness to me, I can so easily discard those facts and let my mind go to a million different scenarios--all of them horrible and gloomy.
I never question whether the sun will shine tomorrow. I know it will. Why? Because it rose today and the day before and everyday of my life. Why do I question whether the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who healed the lame, blind, and deaf, can meet me at the deepest point of my need? It's because I am but dust. And my merciful God is never unfaithful to me although I fail Him everyday.
Have you been in the valley like me, sweet sister? When we cannot find Him in our present, we must remember Him in our past. We must ask the Holy Spirit to transform our minds to meditate on the goodness of our God. He has never failed us yet. He will not fail us now.
Jesus, give me a mouth of praise to You. Cause these crushed bones to rejoice again. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Set me free from this prison that I may praise Your Name (Psalm 142). That is how I will find that You have been there all along.