In all honesty, I had a really hard time writing this post. I almost didn’t write it. But Matthew and I are reading a psalm every week and I’m trying to do this thing where I write about that psalm every Friday, so here I am, at 10pm on Thursday night, hoping I can get my thoughts together enough to post them on Friday morning – so I apologize if they are scattered. In my previous two blogs I wrote about Psalm 42 and Psalm 43. This week, as I read Psalm 44 over and over again I had so many questions.
Why do the righteous suffer? Is all suffering for the sake of God? How do we reconcile the fact that God is good and God is sovereign with the fact that there is evil in the world? Does God somehow ordain evil and suffering? Why do the plans of the wicked prosper? These questions have plagued me all week and my confusion and frustration has been heightened by the terrible events that seem to be happening every time I turn on the news lately. I don’t think I’ll answer all of these questions in this post, honestly I don’t know if I could answer them all well. But, I do think we can learn a lot from studying this psalm.
In Psalm 44 we see a people who can reflect back on the days of their fathers where they clearly saw the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness. They thank the Lord for upholding His covenant and bringing His people to the promised land. They look back on a time when they trusted fully in the Lord to fight for them, saying “not by [our] own sword did [we] win the land, nor did [our] own arm save [us], but Your right hand and Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You delighted in [us].” They boast and praise and give thanks to the Lord for what He has done.
BUT. After recounting all the ways God has been gracious to save them in the past, they pause [selah] and then go into a long list of laments. They ask God why He is allowing them to be trampled and scattered even though they have been faithful to Him. They ask Him why He is not saving them from their current distress. They beg Him to “redeem us for the sake of Your steadfast love.” They don’t see any purpose for their current pain and persecution, and worse yet, they feel that the Lord’s name is being defiled in the process, not glorified. They feel isolated, alone, and abandoned. They have been faithful to God and yet they are still experiencing hardship (sidenote: Psalm 44 (and the whole counsel of Scripture) obviously de-legitimizes any kind of prosperity gospel – righteousness clearly does not promise tangible blessing and freedom from suffering. I mean, obviously, look at Jesus).
And if we’re honest, I think these are questions and feelings that we often have towards God during our own times of suffering..
BUT. The truth is that regardless of the fact that they feel (and have legitimate reason to feel) alone and abandoned, it is not so. They have not been abandoned by their God and they never will be.
“Let us rest satisfied in the reality that the Lord is glorified, and when no revenue of glory is manifestly rendered to Him, He nonetheless accomplishes His own secret purposes, of which the grand result will be revealed in due time…we do not suffer for naught.” – Spurgeon
The beautiful thing is that, when, in the midst of the deepest pain and suffering, we can still cling to God in love and obedience, we experience a depth of comfort and intimacy with God that is unlike anything else. It is then, in those moments of desperate clinging, that it is truly well with our souls. Because we know, and our whole hope rests on the fact, that this world is not all there is. As believers, how can we bemoan the momentary suffering of this fleeting body when we know, when we count our whole lives on the fact, that our eternal soul will forever be in perfect union with the God of the universe? What do we think of as more important – our physical comfort or the state of our soul? I know what the answer to that question too often is for me..
Is all suffering for the sake of God? Yes. Because if we believe that God is fully in control (which He is), and if we believe that God is holy and deserving of glory (which He is), and if we know that He has a glorious plan in which to bring about our ultimate good and His ultimate glory (which He does), then we can trust wholeheartedly in the fact that every single thing that happens, whether good or bad, whether beautiful or terrible, is a perfect part of His orchestrated plan to bring about that glory and goodness.
We know that, as believers, our “good” does not always look like what the world would perceive as “good.” Our life can be characterized by pain and suffering and darkness, but if we are in Christ, we can know wholeheartedly that all of it 1. is working in us to make us more like Jesus and 2. is somehow part of the grand plan to bring the most glory to Jesus’ name – therefore it is GOOD.
It is a good thing to ask these questions because it is in these tensions that we seek and search and dig and ultimately see the face and character of God more clearly.
So believer, I challenge you to seek and search and dig, to ask these hard questions. But at the same time you must hold tightly to the things you know to be true about God. As you ask questions, remind yourself of the character of God – Good. Holy. Faithful. Sovereign. Powerful. Worthy – and allow these truths to guide you as you search for answers. At the same time, rest in the fact that you might not get an answer to everything. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe a little mystery is good because it urges us to seek Him more deeply. So ask, seek, and question; but also rest, remember, and trust.