Kia ora Cambridge Baptist and friends,
For many of us today is our last day of lock down and working from home. Soon the streets and shops will be teeming with people and a sense of normal will have returned to our lives, but despite this a lot of people are still going to be hurting financially and emotionally and asking God for answers. But in my experience God seldom provides the answers we want.
This certainly was the experience of the palmist in psalm 71. With brutal honesty he starts by saying, I have analyzed my situation: I tried prayer all night long. In the past I have been given help, but no help has come to me now. God has filled my heart with songs of joy in the past, but it is empty, barren, and cheerless now.
The writer says in processing God’s silence he has searched for reasons in his own life, and in his heart, and he hasn’t found the answer, so he must logically conclude he must have misjudged God. He had been told God was changeless, that He would always responded when his people came to Him, but He has not. Therefore, he is driven to the conclusion that God is like a man, and you cannot count on Him.
Consequently, the palmist faces a crisis of faith. All that he once rested on, which has been such a comfort to him throughout his life, which has strengthened him and given him confidence, shaped his character and made him different to other men, seems to be based on a foundation that is crumbling fast.
However, the psalmist words, echo what many of us have struggled with – in fact just yesterday a friend and I were discussing that very issue - why doesn’t God answer us when we pray. How often have I heard as a pastor people say to me, I've tried prayer, I've tried reading my Bible, I've tried to think it through, but nothing seems to help. I don't know what to do.
Unresponsiveness from God is not unusual. All believers have experienced this from time to time. This appears to be part of the standard program God has for developing our character and faith. Yet we feel when this is happening to us that’s it unique, that we are alone in our struggle. However, God says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that no temptation (and we can include doubting in here) has seized us except what is common to all people – but, and this is what we need to hold onto, God is faithful; he will not let us be tempted or crushed emotionally beyond what we can bear.
If we get down to the nitty gritty, we find God’s apparent silence difficult to come to terms with because it’s not what we would do if we were God. But as the prophet Isaiah reminds us His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8).
That is, God’s reasons for doing or not doing things are beyond our thinking - they are above ours in every way. We understand so little compared to what He does. What does this mean - it means we shouldn’t be surprised when at times we don’t understand what God is doing or not doing. So we do not need to be troubled by perplexity or the fact that we don’t have all the answers. They are normal experiences coming to all in the life of faith, but we do need to remind ourselves that God is faithful, but I will speak more on that tomorrow.
Lord, that you for the honesty of the Psalms. Thank you that they don’t whitewash the reality of the life of faith. Thank you that they remind us we are not unique in our struggles. Teach us to place our faith in you when we don’t understand.