by Fred Walter
Donald had seen his marriage disintegrate in a matter of months. His wife said she no longer loved him. Though Donald was a church-goer, this news was too much. He began to spend more and more time in bars after work. He dragged himself home inebriated nearly every night. And it was every night after the divorce.
Two wonderful, loving sons . . . gone. The house he had built with his own hands no longer was his to enjoy. Life did not look worthwhile. God was far, far away. In fact, was there a God?
The drinking became a nightmare. In desperation, Donald moved out of the area hoping to “find” himself. Circumstances became a little better — a new job, new friends who showed they had confidence in Donald. Then came Carol, a bright, smiling young lady who worked in the same office. She showed more than a passing interest in Donald. Friendship became romance and romance led to marriage. Life was looking up for Donald.
A Call for Help
A couple of years into the marriage, Donald and Carol received a collect call from Donald’s older son, Ricky. “I’ve run away from home,” Ricky sobbed over the phone. “George hates me and Mama does nothing.”
Laboring to get the words out, he continued, “Daddy, can you help me? I have hardly any money . . . and I won’t go back.”
Donald made immediate arrangements to pick up his son. Soon the family was together: father, son, and caring stepmother.
Contact was made with Ricky’s mother. After much to-do, she agreed to leave Ricky with his father, where he would be happiest. Life looked good for this family.
But then the unthinkable happened: Ricky’s mother reversed her decision and her story. The matter went to court; Ricky was returned to the home he had run away from.
Just months before, Donald, Carol, and Ricky had found a new church home; they had made strong commitments to God and to the church. But with the turn of events, their growing faith in God seemed to burn out faster than it had come.
“Where is God when I need Him most?” Donald wondered. “How could He do this to my son, who needs me and needs Carol so much?”
The right answers — those that can bring comfort and understanding — are not easy to find for Donald, Carol, and Ricky.
A Silent God
In Mountain Songs, Stuart Briscoe observes, “Sometimes I struggle with my feelings, Lord. The wicked seem to live charmed lives, while good people so often suffer deeply. I wonder why You don’t intervene. I ask You to act, and the heavens are like brass — I hear only silence. Forgive me, Lord, but where are You at times like this?”
This sounds like the lament in Psalm 10. The first eleven verses say:
Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight; As for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.” His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; In the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, That the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see it.”
Can we hear ourselves in the lament? Can we hear those close to us crying out, asking the same? Of course we can. What are the answers? How do we find comfort?
Trust and Understanding
We find comfort in trusting God, even though we hurt. We can accept the pain if we know that God is at work in our lives, making all events come together for good (Romans 8:28).
There almost always is a sizable difference between trust and understanding. We often do not understand something, but we have learned to trust because someone has not let us down in the past. Trust often must precede knowledge.
So it is with our relationship with God. We have experienced God in so many of our yesterdays. Even more, is not life itself the gift of God? We who have accepted God into our lives don’t need a scriptural reference to prove that. Let’s go back to read what the psalm writer says in the last seven verses of Psalm 10. It’s time we heard the rest of the story.
A Faithful God
Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account” But You have seen it, for You observe trouble and grief; To repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; Seek out his wickedness until You find none. The Lord is King forever and ever; The nations have perished out of His land LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more (vv. 12-18).
Stuart Briscoe offers a reflection on these verses: “Delusions abound today. The wicked think they can sin with impunity. The humble think they have been forgotten. The abused think life will always be the same. They all discount You, Lord. You will judge the wicked, You will exalt the humble, and the affairs of the abused are always on Your heart. I rejoice that You will act.”
We know that pain and suffering and injustice and all the disorders of life are the direct result of sin entering the world. God is not at fault whatsoever; we are. For all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s ideal for us. His way was and is better, and that way has been vouchsafed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Mountains and Valleys
It is easy to enjoy the view from the mountaintop. We nearly forget the pain of climbing to that vantage point. But the way down! The strain on muscles and ligaments can be rough.
Christianity works the same way. The natural result of success is to enjoy victory at the top. But Christianity is worthless if it doesn’t work in the valleys. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. . . .” You know the rest of the quote.
Somewhere it has been observed, “When your world is badly shaken, start with what you know you believe and build upward from there.” This is sound advice.
Recall the perfect model of Job — loss of all: family, fortune, good health. Despite these great losses — and in the face of death itself — Job was unsinkable in his faith and confidence in God. He said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer” (Revelation 2:10).
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Suffering is neither new nor easy. Some of us go through veritable hells right here on earth. But we do know and believe that Someone truly loves us and cares for our well-being. Sure we will suffer — harshly, unjustly, without due cause. Our children will suffer; they literally may die before our eyes.
But beyond the temporalness and the temporariness of life is an eternity where God dwells. There is the better realm. It is assured. In light of this assurance, we can agree, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer,” for they cannot rob eternity of its surety.
Scripture quotations were taken from the New King James Version. A version of this article appeared in a past issue of the Bible Advocate magazine. For a free subscription, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org