Many of us have attained the long awaited goal of our work yet we live without hope. The things we think will deliver us from life’s troubles often fail us and we are left feeling isolated, abandoned, and living in despair. We frequently cry to God, asking why the wicked always seem to have their way while the righteous seem to live in suffering. Furthermore, we wonder why God would allow our life’s work to be destroyed. We sometimes offer praise to God in the midst of our pain, but more often than not we find ourselves sitting in the rubble of our lives knowing we should praise God but not finding the strength to actually do it. If we are lucky, and very few of us are, we find the way out of this world of pain and loss that overwhelms our thinking.
The way out, and it is really the only way out of this world of pain and despair affecting both sleep and speech, is to remember the works of God. I realize this may sound over simplistic, but actually, it is not. It is very difficult for most of us to focus on the works of God as we can quickly give into meditating on our pain instead. But nonetheless, it is important for us to try to fill our minds with the glory of God and not the decay of humanity. We must, as the psalmist says in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord,” and a good starting point is to look back at the founding of the world, something that the writer of Hebrews tells us is the root of our faith (Hebrews 11:3). Then, moving on from such a beginning, we should walk through the memories of how God brought his people out of bondage and into the promised land; we should think of his work in our lives and how he has led us faithfully thus far. But we must realize there will always be those who question whether God actually did these things as there is often no evidence for his involvement. It is in such a time that we must hold onto our faith and trust that God has been behind all the good things of this life, even though we may not realize it at the time.
Meanwhile, in another time and another place…
For hundreds of years, the long awaited kings had failed, the nation had been exploited, and its people taken into exile. In the aftermath of these events, it is not unexpected that the psalmist would cry out to God asking where he was. In Psalm 73 the psalmist asked why God allowed the wicked to prosper, and in Psalm 74 he wondered why God would allow his temple to be destroyed. In 75 he offered praise in the midst of pain, and in 76 he sat in the rubble of the waste of the city and knew that he must praise God even in the difficult times. Now in Psalm 77 in the midst of unceasing struggles and pains he finds a way to handle the weighty loss and abandonment that has burdened his mind.
He decides that while he can’t sleep and can’t speak (77:4) he can remember the works of the Lord (77:11). He makes the conscious decision to think about God’s deeds, his ways, and his nature. He fills his mind, not with the present world of devastation and despair in which he lives, but with the greatness of God he once knew. His first recollection is how the works of God waylaid the most powerful of natural forces in such a way that his people, Israel, were brought through parted waters of the sea. It is important to note that the psalmist did not rely on empirical evidence for God’s hand bringing salvation, as there was no empirical evidence (77:19), rather he leaned heavily upon faith and trust.
And now, back at my desk…
I was reading Jeremiah 29 recently and wondered if there was something I could learn from God sending his people into exile. I wondered if there is a necessity for the existence of the wicked ones and their works. And then I realized they are the fires heating the forge of life into which we have been thrust so God can perfect us into his own children. In an odd way, it seems that the very fires used by God to sanctify us seem to be rooted in the eternal flames of hell awaiting the wicked at the end of their days.
Is it possible that the wicked are the medium by which God has chosen to perfect us? Is it possible that the flames of hell from which God has saved us are firing the flames of despair that so frequently lick at our feet? Is it possible that the evil ones will prosper for as long as God deems it is necessary to perfect us?
It is more than possible, it is certain.
But that is not the end of the story. We must remember that God’s powerful work in the past is a fountain of living water flowing through history, down the cross, and into our lives. We must remember that it is the only thing able to quench our thirst in the midst these times of testing. We must remember his works, or live in despair.