Recently, in the deepest part of the night, while facing struggles personally, maritally and vocationally, I came to the point of feeling truly abandoned by God. The pain of loss, broken-heartedness and hopelessness truly gripped me and as I cried out to God I truly felt He had turned His back upon me. I felt completely rejected and dejected.
I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but life was so disrupted and out of sorts that I could see no real hope on this side of glory at all and truly felt as though God had turned His face away from me and left me to myself. I know that many will immediately react to such feelings and such a position, but I’m not the first believer in history to experience such a black moment in my life.
I was reminded of this as I was leading my Sunday school through the psalms and someone wanted me to go through Psalm 13. David starts with the words:
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
What comforting words they were to me. David was showing me that he too, struggled from feelings of abandonment. I was not the first, nor am I alone. A lot of people struggle from such feelings in their Christian walk, but because of some false pollyanna view of Christianity, we are not allowed to talk about it or admit to such dark feelings. So many, when hearing of such struggles, just want to pop off a quick verse about all things working together for good, and move on to the next happy moment. It is as if we are to ignore such dark feelings and break into a chorus of Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Please note the irony here. While singing of such a happy life, they are hanging from crosses and facing death.
How many have struggled with such feelings and have been afraid to admit it, thinking that by having such feelings we are sinning against God? The psalmist was not sinning against God when he uttered such words. He was merely recognizing God’s active movement in His life. He was being honest before God about what he felt and before the all-knowing and all-seeing God of the universe.
Having such feelings and being honest about them can be a blessing if we will let them be. How so? These feelings show us that something very vital is missing to in our lives. We are missing the presence of the LORD. David had to endure this absence for quite some time and finally that absence leads him to say, How long, O LORD?
I thing what struck me about this reality is that often times when we enter into sufferings, we are OK with those sufferings initially because we know through such sufferings God refines us and purifies us. However, it is the “How long…” that trips up most of us. Suffering for a week, we can endure. Doing without something for a month, we can handle. But the prolonged period of suffering, where there seems to be no end in sight, that is what dooms many of us.
We are like David asking, “How long, O Lord?”
And that is safe to ask. It shows us that the answer to our pain and suffering are only going to be found in the LORD.
But David doesn’t just ask, How long? He also asks: How long will you hide your face from me?
This question is a matter of blessing for it is a blessing for the LORD to turn His face toward us. This is why the Aaronic benediction is so important in the believer’s life:
Numbers 6:24-26 The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen
His face toward us is a blessing in the areas of our lives. For David, God had turned His face away and He knew the turning was the removal of blessing. For us, the blessing can be removed in our marriages, our jobs, our health, our country, etc.. There are many areas that God can choose to remove His blessing from us, so it is right for us to ask Him: How long will you hide your face from me?
Again, in asking the question, we are telling the LORD that we know all the blessings we have in every realm of life come ultimately from Him. We also recognize that those blessings have been removed for some time and that it is only through the LORD that the blessings will return.
So we petition the LORD in these dark moments, dark months, or dark years. If blessing is going to return, then it must come from the Father of lights.
How does David petition? Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes. He is asking for understanding. He is asking that God would help him understand why the blessing has been removed and why it has been so long since he had it.
The is the turning point for the psalmist. It is after that in which he proclaims: But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart rejoices in Your salvation, I will sing to the LORD because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Not that his situation has changed, or that blessing has been restored. But David, like us, realizes that God has and is blessing us even in the moments when we feel abandoned. By understanding God’s providential hand, we know that ultimately He will never leave us nor forsake us, even though we may feel like He has. Because we feel like He has, tells us of His bountiful blessing on us.
Hattip: Neil for this song. See the comments.