In the midst of the storms of our lives, it’s tempting to think that God has forgotten about those He has committed Himself to save. To many who go on in their Christian lives, there are those times when it seems God has removed Himself from the scene. It’s not uncommon to think that God is occupied by more important people or needs, as though He isn’t able to manage everything at once. More common still, in those circumstances, is the thought that God has abandoned us because we have offended Him in some way It’s then we become pre-occupied with endless introspection and in so doing, dishonour God by not giving Him the love and devotion that He deserves. A couple of days ago, I read two passages in sequence in my ordinary Bible reading, that put to rest the idea that God isn’t there in the seeming silences of our lives. Psalm 121 is a wonderful reminder of the fact that God never rests from watching over His own children. “The Lord himself watches over you!” says vs 4 in the New Living Translation. “The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade” And in vs 8, “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”
A New Testament commentary on this thought came before me at the same time in John 6:16-21, where Jesus seems strangely absent from the lives of the disciples. He has gone away after the “feeding of the 5000.” They wait for Him to return to the boats so they can leave for Capernaum. He doesn’t come, so they go out on their own when it is very late in the day. To make matters worse, a huge storm develops while they are about 5 kilometers from shore. One can imagine that they are highly stressed by Jesus’ inattention. In the words of Psalm 107, “they are at their wits end.” But it’s then, they see Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They are “terrified” both by the storm and the sight of this One coming to them who they do not immediately recognize. But the One who is “always there ” speaks and says, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” They let Him in and immediately, their situation was resolved.
Sometimes, it seems, God allows these periods of silence to develop in our lives when this principle of His abiding presence and care is really tested. I think the issue for all of us as we pass through these times is whether we are willing and able to trust Him and worship Him, even when everything isn’t working the way we think it should. This is also the great lesson of Job’s experience. And as we know, even he grew weary in faith as his ordeal wore on, so that the Lord had to give him a mighty revelation once again of His greatness, whereupon “he repented…”
It’s comforting to know that even if we fail to trust Him in the stormy silences of our lives, He is still there because His promise is, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). But what an honour it must be to Him when we worship Him, love Him and trust Him even in those times, too.
Hi Ed- In Psalm 77.10, the Psalmist complains of that deep feeling of abandonment from God. He asks some soul-disturbing questions: “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favorable no more? Has his mercy ceased forever? Has his promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” As he turns these anguishing thoughts over in his mind, he comes to a conclusion and says, ‘this is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ ‘My infirmity?’
When we think the Lord is absent, or too busy for us, or somehow there but not acting, not caring for us, we can chalk it up to this- our infirmity- an imperfect faith! I’m sure this was the case with the disciples caught in the storm, and with Mary and Martha when the Lord didn’t come right away in response to their request on behalf of their sick brother. Theologically, we know the Lord is there, for he is omnipresent, but emotionally, and in the thick of the storm, we may question his love and concern.
It was in relation to these thoughts the other day that Psalm 103.14 ‘For he knows our frame (how weak we are), and remembers we are dust.’
This is not to excuse the weakness of our faith, but to acknowledge, as you do, his compassion toward us, even when we sink when he wants us to walk on the water.
One of the things you show in your devotional, Ed, is the joy that comes when we use Scripture to interpret Scripture, when we cross-reference one text or passage with another, and in this way feed on his Word. The Holy Spirit ties one text to another to nurture our faith, and they are not necessarily cross-references we would find in our bible, or even in Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge. It is the Holy Spirit leading, teaching, and feeding us.
In regard to this, I read a most interesting comment from Martin Luther on Psalm 1.2. He relates this kind of exercise to ‘meditation,’ and to finding delight in God’s word. Let me quote him, and close with that, and with another thank you for your helpful words.
Luther’s comments on Psalm 1.2: This “meditating” consists first in an intent observing of the words of the law, and then in a comparing of the different Scriptures; which is a certain delightful hunting, nay, rather a playing with stags in a forest, where the Lord furnishes us with the stags, and opens to us their secret coverts. And from this kind of employment, there comes forth at length a man well instructed in the law of the Lord to speak unto the people. Martin Luther.