Thursday, June 9, 2011

For Sale: One Darkness of the Soul

Our Sunday night congregation is once again in the Psalms with Dr. Duncan. Those are particularly sweet times of worship and study where afterward many linger in fellowship as the doors are closed on the market day of the soul. As we dove into the fifth book of the Psalms, # 107 this past Sunday, Dr. Duncan reminded us of this:  " You know it’s interesting, five hundred years ago, had trouble surrounded people influenced by Christendom, I think their instinct would have been to say, “What have we done wrong that these troubles have happened to us?”  In our day and time, if troubles encompass you, the problem becomes God’s.  'God, how could You allow this to happen to me?  This calls into question Your very existence.' We live in a day of entitlement and presumption.  We presume that we are entitled to constant blessing and so we assume it and do not thank God for it." So the Psalms are of particular benefit to the believer in trial for several reasons:
*They reveal the anatomy of all parts of the human soul.
*They reveal the location of my heart's home.
*They validate the depth of the pain of suffering that can be present in even the most mature of believers.
*They prompt the heart of the believer toward gratitude which is the seedbed of Christian joy.
*They remind us of God's covenant faithfulness.
*They provide a rich model for prayer.
*They place a song in the heart of the downcast believer.
*They instruct believers in the worship of God.
*They give us strength for today and hope for tomorrow by reorienting our focus from ourselves to the Almighty God.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive.  If it were up to me, I wouldn't mind just staying in that beautiful sanctuary on North State Street. But eventually we all have to head out the door back to the trials that plague us. Economic downturns, serious illness, flooding on one side of the highway and drought on the other, loss of employment, relationship fracture, deep personal disappointment, loss of a loved one or dear friend. And it's just Thursday.
The psalmist knows our plight. From Psalm 77, a song of Asaph:
"I cried out to God with my voice--to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remember God and was troubled; I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed. ...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?"
This picture is not the response of a Christ-follower to dark providence. The Christian faith is not a head in the sand, life ignoring, or pie in the sky kind of faith. It is first a faith of objective reality. Trouble comes to God's people as surely as it does to everyone. "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" Wise man, that Job. Asaph, too, says it like it is. I am troubled, perplexed, weary, and seemingly alone. But he cries out with his voice to his God who gives ear to his plea. What comfort in having a God who hears and who listens.
"I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search." vs. 6. This is how the anatomy of the soul is revealed. Meditation or chewing on the reality of the content of our heart and soul as compared to the nature and character of God is a tremendous lesson in humility. "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" Ps. 8:4. Ours is a faith of humble objectivity revealed to us in the psalms.
Ours is also a faith of page turning. What? Verse 9 is the last on the page of my bible. "Has He shut up His tender mercies?" That would be a terrible place to stop and yet that is what we often do. We pour out the long list of pain and sorrow and choose to remain in our despondency rather than "turn the page" and look up to the top of the next and look up in remembrance of the faithfulness of God.
"And I said, 'This is my anguish; BUT I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord, I will remember Your wonders of old. Remembering the past is instruction for the present. God has never failed or left his people. What is Asaph remembering? Exodus 14. The Red Sea. Charging Egyptians behind and a dry path through roaring waters in front. Remember? The way to glory was through deep and troubled waters.
"I will meditate on all your work and talk of your deeds. Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; you have declared your strength among the people and you have with your arm redeemed your people. Your way was in the sea. Your path was in the great waters."
"I will meditate on your work. Your way is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are a God who does wonders; You have declared your strength among your people. You have with your arm redeemed your people." Have you noticed? Where is the I? It has now been replaced with You and Your. Your way is perfect. Your choices are right. You have done more than right by me. You work wonders. You are working wonders. Again, we gain strength for today and hope for tomorrow by having a reorientation of focus from self to Savior.
This leads me all the way back to Dr. Duncan's comment on the sense of entitlement that runs rampant in the world, even the world of believers. God's word tells me that He does all things well. All that is for my good and His glory. He can do no other since He acts only according to His nature. But He does not OWE me that good. He does not OWE me any explanation for why He chooses to do what He does. He does not owe me any life of ease any more than He does not repay me with evil according to all that I have done. It is God's merciful lovingkindness that has redeemed me and sustains me through every providence, light or dark, pleasurable or painful, that is working for me a future weight of glory. Each and every darkness of my heart and soul is no longer up for sale. They have been bought at Calvary by Jesus Christ. If He chose to never bless me again that which  I have already received in Him is more than I deserve and more than I ever could have dreamed or imagined. "It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me."

1 comment:

  1. Katy Sanderson CreathJune 9, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    so beautiful and just what i needed to hear. i have read it twice and will read again. thank you sharing your heart and wisdom. please keep sharing. much love, katy