Has it ever seemed that God wasn’t involved in life anymore? Have you ever looked beyond yourself and wondered why there doesn’t seem to be an advocate for the helpless? No justice for the down-trodden? No refuge for the persecuted? Has it ever seemed as though evil people always triumph? That they never get caught? That they always find a way out of what should be obvious and just punishment?
I quickly surveyed the news today and it seems that the world is spinning out of control and there is no one to keep it from falling over. Without taking sides on any of the issues, and without putting names to the perpetrators, here is a brief sampling of what I saw.
Another presidential election is just around the corner and two main candidates remain: one acting like an egocentric reality-show host saying incendiary things, and the other a career politician whose integrity is continually questioned; neither of which appear fit to lead a nation. There are questions about racism within the police force, with a few bringing shame and doubt upon the rest of the officers, most of whom are wonderful people. In reaction to this, there are many who are outraged at such behavior, most of whom behave responsibly, but there are a few bringing shame on the many by calling for anarchy, stalling all hope of reasonable conversation. There are radicals in foreign countries who would just as soon chop off your head as have a conversation. There are people around the world selling children into sex-slavery. There are domestic terrorists who are willing to kill large numbers of people, and there are others who should be called terrorists doing the same. There are billionaires manipulating the legislature, and there are legislators who would rather sell their power than use it to protect citizens. And these are just the headlines for one day in the news: I haven’t even mentioned the evils of prejudice, condescension, and promiscuity that lie deep within each of us, often sitting at the end of a short fuse.
It seems to be a bleak world with no apparent justice on the horizon. The foundations of society are being destroyed and the heavens respond with silence. Where is God in this dark time? Why does he stand at a distance and do nothing?
It’s at these times that I want to yell at God to remind him of his job. I want to tell him that he is supposed to help the helpless and beat the crap out of the wicked man. I want to tell him it is his job to step in and stop the exploitation, the racism, the injustice, the rape, the murder, the graft, the greed, the lying, the theft, the…the…the… all of it, all of this God-damned behavior (and yes, to be quite specific, this behavior is just that). Isn’t he supposed to stop it all? I want to tell him that he has forgotten his job. But how do I remind him? How do I tell him what he isn’t doing? And how do I tell him that we can’t take much more?
I realize a study of Hebrew poetic structure is not the normal place one goes when confronted with such questions, but I think in this case it is helpful. Psalm 9 and 10 are most likely the same poem, as together they form an acrostic, each stanza beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This device was often used by the Hebrews when they wanted to say “here is the end of the matter” or “this is important, pay attention!” If that is the case, I find its use interesting in Psalm 9 and 10 as the psalmist holds the praise of God in one hand while in the other he holds a sense that God has abandoned him. Praise and abandonment: not two things we normally hold together, but the psalmist holds them together, and furthermore, he seems to embrace the tension.
I know, this sounds like I’m heading toward a plea for us to just wait on the Lord, and honestly, I guess that is where I am going. But I think it’s important to know why. When I look at the options of ideologies, things, or people in which I can place my trust, the Christian God becomes the only obvious solution that makes sense. The power of people is flawed and limited, things are inadequate to erase sin and its consequences, and ideologies have all been tried and found wanting. It is only a personal God who is perfectly just, merciful, and gracious that can be trusted.
But we must remember that he acts in his time, not ours, and this causes us to wait. I think we can all agree that waiting is never easy, but waiting on the Lord when he seems distant and the world seems to be going to hell might just be the most difficult, yet necessary thing we will ever be asked to do.