The current pandemic reminds us of how weak we truly are. I have had conversations with people that have never been sick in their lives. Whenever someone tells me that, I am stunned. It’s just not a part of my experience. I’ve known pain and sickness to a great degree, but some have never known a day without pain or sickness. I’m a mess! I’ve gone through deep waters and fiery trials. This is why I relate to the questions in Psalm 77.7-9:
Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
That I would ask these questions reveal a lot about me. They reveal how I feel about myself and how I feel about God.
How do I feel about myself?
I have everlasting life, but I feel like I have everlasting misery. I really don’t understand why I am a wreck inside. Did I believe in vain? Has God cast me off? Will the fog of despondency ever lift? God could never love someone like me. I have sinned to the point that I’ve been alienated from God. I’m isolated and all alone. God’s mercy and grace have been turned away. My life is a dried up tributary meandering through a wasteland. While I know these things are not true, they are feelings that I have from time to time. They seem so unshakeable.
How do I feel about God?
God is always good and only provides good things for His children. Why doesn’t this comfort me? Maybe it’s because feelings I have about God trouble me. His attributes are for others but against me. God is all-knowing. I tell others this so that they might find comfort in the fact that God knows what they need and knows how to deliver them. But as for me, I only feel guilty and condemned by Him. God is truth, but I wither on the vine because mercy and truth never meet for me. My prayers are not being answered even though God is simply making me wait. “My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD” (Lamentations 3.18).
The questions in Psalm 77 reveal how I feel. They are observations that become my anguish (Psalm 77.10). They are a mark of my weakness or infirmity. I have many weaknesses; therefore, I must remember that the Spirit helps me in my weaknesses (Romans 8.26). I do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with my weaknesses (Hebrews 4.15). I struggle with two core weaknesses.
“For I said in my haste, ‘I am cut off from before Your eyes'” (Psalm 31.22a). Asaph concluded in Psalm 73 , “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain” (73.13a). He didn’t see the big picture. He was too impatient. I’m guilty of this as well. Impatience drove David to think all men were liars (Psalm 116.11). Impatience led Elijah to conclude that he was the only one who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Impatience led Jeremiah to conclude that God had deceived him (Jeremiah 20.7). Impatience breeds contempt and bitterness. I so need the patience of Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13.15).
I don’t often think of unbelief as sin, but it is. My problem is I don’t believe God is all-wise, good, and trustworthy. I might not come out and say it, but I act the part rather nicely. God is the Potter; I am the clay. He has a will for me. He has a purpose in the way I am going. I must hang onto that. “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls [appearances] – Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation [faith]” (Habakkuk 3.17-18).
If I want to know what God will do, I simply look at what God has done. He never changes. If He parted the Red Sea, there is nothing He can’t do for me. I cannot out-sin His mercy and grace. I cannot limit His sovereignty. I can trust in His promises!
- Will the Lord cast me off forever? No!
- Will He be favorable to me no more? No!
- Has His mercy ceased forever? No!
- Has His promise failed forevermore? No!
- Has God forgotten to be gracious? No!
- Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? No!
Why do I think this way and ask these questions? That’s a good question! It is my anguish! What a great position and privilege I have as a child of God! I am an heir to the promises. This does not make me presumptuous, but it does elevate me from the morass of despair. The LORD will show me the path of life; in His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. I choose to think on these things rather than on former questions.
2 thoughts on “Despair to Joy”
Thank you Pastor O for answering those questions we all sometimes entertain. I forwarded this sermon to someone who recently asked me those same questions posed. I’m so glad I found this site for your sermons. I miss them!
Good to hear from you, Christina. I’m glad someone is reading/profiting from them!