When parents bury a child, a spouse gets betrayed, or a devastating diagnosis is revealed, we all feel disoriented. Calamities like these arriving from unknown zip codes make the pain unbearable. The immediate human response is to ask why.
Why did this happen?
Why did this happen now?
Why me or someone I love?
In tackling these questions, am I trying to lasso some logical explanation for something that can’t be explained on this side of heaven? Or ever. Am I looking to try to control things by regaining my understanding?
When I try to bring a logical explanation to a tragedy, it can be easy to get stuck in an endless loop. There are no logical explanations for a devastating loss.
In the second half of Psalm 44, God’s people cry out with one voice and seek to understand why they are suffering.
17 All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant.(Psalm 44:17 ESV)
They try to line out evidence to prove their innocence and reasons why they should not suffer.
Valleys and Shadows
As they cry to God, they remind Him of their faithfulness and point out their desperate location. They walk through the Valley of Death and feel surrounded by jackals, who may cheat, steal or take advantage.
18 Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; 19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. (Psalm 44:18-19 ESV)
Crying to God, they remind Him of their faithfulness and point out their desperate location. They walk through the Valley of Death and feel surrounded by jackals, who may cheat, steal or take advantage.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21 would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. (Psalm 44:20-21 ESV)
They remind God that He would know if they had been unfaithful to Him. In doing so, perhaps they remind themselves of how much God knows about our hearts.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. (Psalm 44:20-22 ESV)
Being regarded as sheep to the slaughter is a particular identity of wretchedness. Sheep are not known for their self-defense skills or ability to avoid slaughter. Jesus, who willingly laid His life down for each of us, was described like this on His way to the cross.
23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! 24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (Psalm 44:23-24 ESV)
I feel discouraged when my prayers are not answered when or how I expected. It can be easier to assume God was distracted and lost sight of my plight. But God calls me to hold onto hope. Believing God is napping instead of not doing what I asked might make sense. However, scripture is clear, God does not slumber or sleep but pays attention in all seasons. (See Psalm 121:3 for more on this.)
Crying out from the Dust
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. 26 Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! (Psalm 44:25-26 ESV)
God’s people honestly express their desperation and describe the toll suffering has taken on their hearts, minds, and spirits. Grief has them crawling in the dust.
When God created his people in the garden, they were designed for eternity. We become physically weighed down when we face death, dying, and suffering because it is not what we were initially designed for. We feel it in our bodies—the crushing effect of sin and suffering. I might end up face-down in the dust.
Desperate, we cry to God for redemption in all hopeless and dead situations.
God is motivated by his steadfast love –not by what I have done or left undone. His steadfast love is faithful and true and can bring redemption even when all hope seems lost.
Knowing you hear, I cry to you, Lord, from my lowest point. Hope is ignited in me because of your steadfast love for me and all your children. Please help me hold fast as I wait for your redemptive solutions and perfect timing. Sustain me in the valley and shepherd me to safety. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Soul Tending Suggestion
Consider God’s steadfast love by praying and coloring this page.