Monday, June 18, 2012

Are You There, God?

 Give ear to my words, O LORD;
     give heed to my sighing.
 Listen to the sound of my cry,
     my King and my God,
     for to you I pray.      
Psalm 5:1-2

I had one of those nights that I assume all people have from time to time. I was trying to sleep, but my mind would not be still. Questions about how to handle this situation or that kept rearing their heads and insisting on wrestling with me. But these internal discussions seemed largely futile, leading nowhere. Contradictory options kept playing out in my head, but none seemed a good answer.  I would really have liked some clarity, some good guidance.

Being a pastor, one might assume that I immediately turned to God for help, but I must confess that I wrestled for some time without trying that. Funny how it sometimes requires desperation to move me toward God. But if I was expected a blissful, divine deliverance, none was forthcoming.

This morning's psalm may not be the best example (Try Psalm 22's "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?"), but it is a reminder that even the writers of Scripture were quite familiar with what some have labeled "the absence of God."  They too struggled, turned to God, and found themselves groping in the dark, crying out without a response. And so they pleaded with God to listen, to heed their cries.

There is something comforting in knowing that people of deep faith struggle at times with God's absence (as Jesus did on the cross). But even more comforting is something else I share with the psalmists, the assurance that God's absence is not permanent. This assurance is born of previous experiences of God's deliverance and reliability, and virtually all the psalms of lament, those psalms that cry out to God in agony, resolve in praise for what God has done.

If you are anything like me, there are times when the problems of the moment capture your attention so fully that it is difficult to see past them. In that moment, there can seem to be no options, no help, and a kind of paralysis sometimes sets in. But in my experience, God is faithful, even though I often am not. I do know there are people who suffer in ways that I cannot comprehend and for which I have no easy answers.  But with the sort of struggles that so often paralyze me, I invariably end up looking back and wondering why my difficulty seemed so overwhelming.  Sometimes I even think I hear Jesus asking, "Why did you doubt?"

Are you there, God? Ah, yes, there you are.

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