Psalm 44 was the passage for Sunday night's sermon. It's a dark psalm. I found myself so saddened and discouraged by the end of the service that I wanted nothing more than just to leave, as soon as possible. The psalmist, I was told, asks throughout this psalm, one question of God -- the question we often ask of Him:
And what does the importunate psalmist hear in reply? What do we often hear?
I did not find that encouraging on Sunday evening, and thus my quick exit.
Sometimes the truth is just a little too sharp to swallow. It hurts going down.
I linked before to an article called "Extracting the Precious from the Worthless." This passage especially struck me, and I read it again and again:
"Occasionally, even if we walk intimately with the Lord, His silence can make Him seem distant, but as I reflect on my faith journey it is obvious to me in hindsight, that it is in these times that the nearness of God is most evident."
I read those words with an angry little twitch in my heart, because I knew them to be true. But I'm in the very middle of a Silent Time, so it doesn't feel true now. That's what she's saying -- He doesn't feel close now, at all. But I know (because I've been through this before) that later, in a a few months, or a year, or a couple of years, I'll look back and know that these hard months (and years) have been times of knowing Him better, of loving him and embracing Him in a more risky way. Times of wrenching trial force us to hang onto God, the invisible God, the silent God.
How hard is it to hang on to someone who is both invisible and silent? Very hard. I fail daily. That failure is also part of the sadness.
The article's writer also encourages us to praise God, in the midst of His deafening silence, to fill the silence with our voices and beckon Him. The psalmist tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. Perhaps praising Him is one way of getting Him to "come back home"?
I'm not very successful at the praising part either, this time around. I may be getting there. Each time of lengthy trial in my life seems to involve various stages. I deny it, then I decide to study and learn from it, then I'm sad, then I'm angry (like now), and then later I acquiesce, and finally praise. It is a tiresome process. I wish I were better at it, and could skip to the end. I know Christians that seem to do that.
"Learning to praise God in our pain becomes our distinctive in this world full of suffering."
My distinctive. To be a praiser of God, when He is silent to me. David does this all the time, doesn't he?
"Yet Thou hast rejected us and brought us to dishonor."
"In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Thy name forever."
"Thou dost give us as sheep to be eaten."
"All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten Thee."
"Yet Thou has crushed us in a place of jackals, and covered us with the shadow of death."
"Arouse Thyself, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord?"
All this -- all these words -- are found in Psalm 44!
It's dangerous to interpret the silence of God. Is it His displeasure? Have I done some horrible thing? Am I supposed to wait? Or is there something I should do, and I'm not understanding what it is? Is He afflicting me because He loves me, or because I'm bad? How can I know? I don't want to sit like a grump, with my arms akimbo, glaring at God as if to say, "Fine. If you're not gonna talk, I'm not gonna say anything either."
As I said, I'm not at the nice-and-tidy final stage yet. Sorry. But maybe some of you aren't either. I'll be trying to praise, even with a small voice. Joni Eareckson calls this a "sacrifice of praise," praising when it hurts. I'm hoping those small, weak, painful praises are more precious to Him.