In Pursuit of Why – Psalm 44:17-26

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.

Like Sheep

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.

Does Everything Happen for a Reason? Psalm 44:1-16

Years ago, my husband and I worked for a company that filled our lives with many amazing opportunities. While we both were able to use our degrees and training, this kingdom-minded company built up our community. Financially we were well-compensated, and this season was a time of abundance and fruitfulness for our family. It might have been described much like the first eight verses of Psalm 44.

1 O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.
4 You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. 
7 But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
(Psalm 44:1-8 ESV)

Blessings and Victories

These first eight verses of Psalm 44 report what some believers expect our lives to look like. Popular Christian culture would describe this as a blessed life of victory. Many of us have experienced seasons like this.

Is life as a follower of Jesus supposed to be easy and fruitful? Can I expect to live my best and most fulfilling life if I am obediently following Jesus?

A Change in Season

The next section of Psalm 44 expresses the reality of our human experience in a broken world on this side of Heaven.

9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples.
(Psalm 44:9-14 ESV)

Did God fail me?

This question weighs heavily on our hearts and minds. Do you ever feel rejected and disgraced by God? Have you ever felt that others must wonder how you can believe in a loving God when experiencing terrible things?


Loss and Disappointment

The very same believers who experienced all the victory in the first eight verses are now witnessing loss and disappointment. Has God abandoned them? Has He targeted them for vengeance? Their identity has changed from mighty warriors to sheep to the slaughter in a few verses. They have moved from victors to victims.

15 All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
(Psalm 44:15-16 ESV)

In these moments of great anguish, when we might feel near our breaking point, the enemy of our soul seizes the opportunity to layer on taunts and accusations.

When the weight of shame crushes our souls, a nagging question follows. Why did this happen to me or my loved one? Shame threatens to suffocate our souls because we begin believing we did something to deserve this. There is something flawed deep down inside us. This a lie from the pit.

While the consequences of our actions take their toll on our lives, our world is full of painful things that happen for no apparent reason that we can discern. We may never know why a loved one died, a child experienced abuse, or someone we love suffers. Everything does not happen for a reason. For years, I held tight to that lie. Believing that I could make sense of suffering, and sometimes you just can’t.


A Season of Loss

In 2010, just as our oldest daughter graduated from high school, my husband and I lost our dream jobs. In a painful process of betrayal and separation, we also lost many relationships. Sometimes breaking up a business partnership can look like an ugly divorce, with rumors and false accusations. When assets get divided, no one particularly wins. So much time and energy got wasted in battles over fairness and justice. My husband even had to give up working in his field of expertise for five years to fulfill specific legal requirements.

At a time when we might have been focused on celebrating our daughter’s accomplishments, we counted our losses and reeled from betrayal.

Years later, I can see how the Lord used this season to re-align our priorities.  You have much space left in your life and schedule when you lose so much. We needed time to grieve and heal, and we did. We would, however, never get back exactly what we lost or anything close to it. We lost a great deal, but we both gained resilience and deep knowledge of the ongoing process of forgiveness. I used to think that forgiveness was a “one-and-done operation.” However, a deep and layered betrayal will require an ongoing effort to forgive and forget.

Did we do something to cause our season of loss and pain? No

Did God teach, guide, and provide for us in this season? Yes

Are we sometimes still blindsided by reminders of this loss? Yes


Lord, we pray that we will be known as people who boast continually in God, and we give thanks to His name forever, in the seasons of blessings and in the seasons of loss. Help us to seek You first for our healing and restoration. Give us grace for the ongoing journey of forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out this book:

“Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler.