How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-3, N.I.V.)
A pastor was in his study working intently on a sermon when he heard his study door creak open a bit. He was surprised by the intrusion because he’d left strict orders that he wasn’t to be disturbed. Apparently, his young daughter hadn’t received those orders.
As she began to enter the room, the father scolded her by saying, “Stop right there. I’m busy and don’t have time to play. Please leave and close the door as you go.” Realizing she was on the brink of being in real trouble, the child spun around and hurriedly slammed the door behind her. Unfortunately for her, one of her fingers didn’t quite clear the door and got mashed in the process.
Screaming and crying followed, which compelled the father to get up from his desk and walk over to the child. Without even glancing at the mashed finger, he called for his wife to come and tend to their daughter. The mother came running and escorted the little girl to the bathroom where the medicine cabinet held the needed supplies. As the mother worked on the finger, she asked the child, “Does it hurt much?” To that, the daughter answered, “Yes, but what made it worse was that daddy didn’t even care.”
It’s bad enough to have to go through a difficult experience. It’s something else altogether when you feel like God doesn’t even care. I can hear this feeling in David’s question, “Will you forget me forever?” Of all the things I love about David’s Psalms, my favorite thing is that he doesn’t mind being down-to-the-bone honest when he talks to God. David was feeling abandoned by the Lord, and he told God so.
I myself have been there. I’ve had my share of mashed fingers that God couldn’t have cared less about. (At least that’s how it seemed to me.) Like the little girl who entered the study when she shouldn’t have, I’ve brought some of these mashed fingers upon myself. No question there. Other times, however, my enemies have pulled out hammers and given me mashed fingers I didn’t deserve. David had this kind of situation in mind when asked, “How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
Where David leaves me behind and goes off to some lofty place that I have trouble finding is summed up in the last two verses of the Psalm. There, he says to God:
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5-6, N.I.V.)
Did you catch that? David’s answer to him feeling completely abandoned by God was to trust in God all the more, find his joy in God, and sing of God’s goodness. You talk about a difficult prescription for treatment! Let’s say that someone has broken your heart by severely disappointing you. What should you do about that? David’s prescription amounts to you forcing yourself to continue to show confidence in that person and continue to give that person chance after chance to come through for you.
David’s basis for this irrational course of action was God’s past goodness toward him. As David puts it, “…for he has been good to me.” These words don’t mean that David was forgetting about his present situation. He still felt forgotten, abandoned, and even betrayed by God. But what got him through all that and allowed him to keep looking to God was God’s long-term track record with him.
When David looked at the totality of his life, he could see the lengthy list of good things that God had done for him and the favorable position to which God had brought him. Was the “bad” he was currently experiencing real? Absolutely. Was it painful? Definitely. All told, though, David had to admit that the “good” in his life far outweighed the “bad.”
In golf, you can have a few rough holes and yet still have a good overall round. In tennis, you can lose a lot of points and yet still win the match. In football and basketball, you can lose a quarter and yet still win the game. In baseball, you can strike out and yet still have a good day at the plate if you get some hits in your other times at bat. The key in all of these situations is to keep a proper perspective. Don’t let the unpleasant minority moments rob you of the joy provided by the pleasant majority moments.
Of course this is easier said than done when your finger just got mashed and God seems thoroughly unconcerned about your plight. Therefore, I’m not saying that David’s prescribed treatment is always easy to put into practice. Still, I can tell you from my own experience that it does help. It really does.
As for why God doesn’t always come rushing to our aid and comfort when we get our finger mashed, well, that’s another post for another time. Perhaps He is trying to purge us of our childish mentality. Or, perhaps He is trying to build trust in us. Whatever His reasons are, I’m sure He has them and we’ll just have to leave them with Him.
What we can say for sure is that God does LOVE us. Jesus (God the Son) dying on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him as Savior can have all their sins forgiven proves that. Also, isn’t it interesting that David doesn’t say of God, “But I trust in your unfailing self…” Instead, he says, “But I trust in your unfailing love…” Getting back to my opening illustration, that father never stopped loving his daughter even though the daughter couldn’t feel his love in that specific situation. Feeling, you see, is not necessarily reality. I would encourage you to keep this in mind anytime you are hurting and God seems unconcerned about your pain. Just because you feel unloved by Him doesn’t mean that you actually are.