When darkness comes and you don’t know why

All this came upon us,
   though we had not forgotten you;
   we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
   our feet had not strayed from your path. (Psalm 44:17-18)

I often go on a morning run. Sometimes I can’t do this until later in the morning. But I am not able to have coffee until my run is complete. So, as my day begins caffeine free, I can feel a little sluggish or unmotivated or even have shockingly negative feelings and attitudes..… Then I need to pray and be reminded that God is still a caring God even if I don’t strongly feel God’s care.

Today, in Psalm 44, the Psalmist has an important message for us. It’s to reflect on all that we know is good about God, that we know is true outside of what we are  feeling.

On a bad day, it’s human nature to want to dwell on our struggle first. “I feel so bad. Why me?”  But that is not at all what the Psalmist does. No, he begins with proclaiming many good things about who God is. What God has done. And how praiseworthy God is.

In the first 8 verses, he talks about how it’s God who gave and gives the victory over enemies —it was God’s power doing it because he loved them. This section reaches a great climax in verse 8:

In God we make our boast all day long,
 and we will praise your name forever.

Unlike what I often do, it is then and only then, after a full acknowledgement of God’s power and past help, that you hear the Psalmist’s lament.  Only now does he pour out the sadness in his heart.

But now you have rejected and humbled us;
    you no longer go out with our armies. (verse 9) 

He is finally saying, “Hey, what did we do wrong? We are walking strong in loving obedience to you, Lord.  We’re not being rebellious! What happened?”

 All this came upon us,
 though we had not forgotten you;
 we had not been false to your covenant. (verse 17)

The low point of the Psalm is reached in verse 19:

 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
    you covered us over with deep darkness.

Isn’t this the hardest time to trust the Lord? We’re feeling so far from him. It may be due to trying circumstances in our life, or opposition we are facing. Or we feel far from him for no apparent reason.

Sometimes this darkness even happens when we know we are spending lots of time and energy working especially hard for the Lord; we may be seized by a feeling of futility, wondering whether God is using our lives to cause any good results in other people’s lives.

Whatever the cause, we’ve entered an emotional state where we feel far away from God …. we long and plead for his closeness to be restored.

So, the Psalmist arrives at a beautiful conclusion: no matter how dark things appear, this darkness is only a temporary state of affairs.    

 Rise up and help us;
 rescue us because of your unfailing love. (verse 26)

I conclude today with three prayers for us to bring before the Lord:

  • Show us more of your unfailing love.
  • Let your unfailing love give us hope even in times of oppression and depression.
  • Show us that your promise of rescue is true, even when we don’t feel that it’s true.

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