Meditations in Psalms : 10 : Abandoned? – Psa 13
Psa 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
Listening to and watching the Christian community, I am saddened by the sense of unreality that seems to pervade so many lives. The perceived and required mentality that seems to be taught in some churches is that we are always triumphant and we never struggle with life – we are victorious over-comers. Now as much as I agree with those two descriptions, there are some areas that they apply to but often life is not like that. The person who denies they ever sense that God is in another universe is either deluded or simply unaware of spiritual realities full stop!
Where there is honesty, there will be many people who feel as David feels in this psalm, and it is not wrong to feel this! The reality is that we lead a life of faith and that means we cannot see God and sometimes people or circumstances seem to blot out the sense of his presence (we’ll see much more of this in Psa 22). The disciples living their lives alongside Jesus often misunderstood and got it wrong in their understanding, so we shouldn’t be surprised (and God isn’t!) when we get it wrong. When Jesus hung on the Cross and took on himself the sins of the world, he cried out with a sense that God had left him. Now I am sure that didn’t happen, but just from Jesus’ human perspective at that moment, that was how it seemed. And that is how it seems to David at this moment: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He has this feeling that he has been abandoned by the Lord. It’s the same sort of thing that Job felt.
But what was going on in him to make him feel like this? “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (v.2) David, like most of us, is a thinker and his thoughts go round and round and round. Where is God? Why hasn’t he turned up for me? Have I done something wrong? Has He left me? When the sense of the all-glorious being that is God gets clouded by people or circumstances these are the thoughts that will go through our minds. Now whether the ‘enemy’ is Satan or a physical human being is not clear, but someone or something is pressing in on him, stressing him, and causing him anguish and his mind struggles to understand what is going on.
Habakkuk is another good example of someone who struggled to understand what was going on. Listen to his cry: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Hab 1:2) That’s what it seemed to him, and so he starts reasoning, even though the Lord has told him what is happening: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” (Hab 1:13a) He’s just been told that God is going to use the enemy to purge Israel, but the enemy are godless and unrighteous. It just doesn’t fit his theology. He continues, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab 1:13b) He hadn’t reached the point of understanding that the Lord does use the ungodly to sometimes chastise the godly. If you want another person who didn’t understand what was happening read about Gideon (Jud 6:13).
Sometimes we don’t understand the big picture, we don’t see what God is doing in our circumstances and thus we cry out with David, “Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” (v.3) We even feel that unless the Lord turns up and gives us answers, our very lives are threatened (spiritual if not physical!). How can we survive, we feel, if this continues like this? The only outcome we can see is the enemy triumphing: “my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (v.4)
There it is, we’ve come to the end of our resources it seems. We don’t understand it all – and we have tried! But then, there in the dark, we sense something and contrary to all understanding and expectations we find ourselves declaring, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (v.5) Suddenly we find there was something else there we hadn’t realised was there, a glimmer of grace, that sureness that despite everything, God IS the God of love (1 Jn 4:8) and He will bring my salvation, and despite all else that the enemy can throw at us, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” (v.6) It may be rubbish at the moment, but the Spirit reminds me that the past has been good, and it’s all of the Lord.
In this light, I love the closing words of Psalm 92: “The righteous ….will still bear fruit in old age ….proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15) They may be limited in many other ways, but the older Christian can still testify to this truth.
Habakkuk broke through to the place where he could write: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Hab 3:17,18) You don’t get to that point of complete assurance in God until you’ve been through the place where you first cry out, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Only after that do we find that grace is there in the sludge at the bottom of the barrel, and grace declares the truth: God IS there, and God IS working out His purposes and God still IS a God of love and does all things well for me. Amen? Amen!