As I preach the Psalms again this summer, I’m struck by the constant reality of suffering that's touched the people of God for millennia. The son of Korah struggled with depression, despair, and the dark night of the soul – just as I have (Ps. 42 and 43). Asaph looked at the prosperity and ease of the wicked, and when he compared their posh lives to his own struggling sojourn on earth, he basically cried, “God, it’s not fair!” – just as I have (Psalm 73). Moses (after leading a grumbling, mumbling, high-maintenance group of whiners out of slavery) died outside of the Promised Land – just like the first generation of Israelites did. Why? Because just two years shy of a 40-year wait of leading them into Canaan, he struck a rock twice – instead of speaking to it, finally losing his patience with the congregation after all those years of weary leadership (Num. 20.2-13)! The late James M. Boice thinks it was either this death-of-a-life-long-dream (i.e., leading Israel into the Promised Land) or the death of one his siblings (Num. 20.1, 22-28) that led Moses to write Psalm 90. It’s possible that these and other hard providences made Moses feel like he knew more of God’s anger than His favor during his lifetime (cf. Ps. 90.9, 15). Have you ever felt that way? I sure have at times.
But each of theses stories doesn’t end there. There’s hope. As you read Psalm 43 – which most scholars think is a continuation of Psalm 42 – the author's depression begins lifting. When Asaph begins to worship in Psalm 73, he realizes that the wicked’s paradise-like lifestyle on earth is headed for a sudden and eternally disastrous destiny. While worshiping, he realizes that God – not riches and earthly ease – is where ultimate satisfaction is found. In Psalm 90, Moses prays that his toilsome work would leave a lasting legacy, which may've been seriously doubted by him as he lay dying in the land – not of Promise but – of Moab. The fact that Moses is one of the most venerable patriarchs in OT history reveals God’s faithfulness to answer his prayer.
In the Psalms, there isn’t always crystal clear resolution regarding the biblical author's suffering. But what is often evident is that his perspective changes – which alleviates, and even sweetens, an otherwise unbearable set of circumstances or situation. I was struck by a present day demonstration of this last week while watching the following video. In spite of tremendous suffering, Will and Angie Gray are living demonstrations of trusting Jesus in the midst of seemingly unbearable pain; this is what so many of the Psalms do for us as new covenant believers. Will powerfully touches on the issue of where our trust rests in times of confusing suffering, as well as the struggle for faith in such moments:
“It’s about God and His reaching out to us. It isn’t really something about losing faith. Is Jesus going hold up His end of the deal here? 'Are You going to come after me if I’m the one that’s lost in the wildness?' I just try to believe Jesus is going to continually do what He said He’s going to do for both of us – for all of us.
“I would say to the person that’s having a hard time believing: it’s OK to have a hard time believing. We don’t have to have it all figured out. I don’t have it all figured out. Never have. Never will…”
Please pray for Will. He is fighting for his life as we speak. To read the latest update – written just this morning – click here.