I read a sad article this week about a pastor and writer who is not only getting a divorce after more than two decades of marriage, but also is walking away from his faith completely, telling the world he is no longer a Christian. I don’t know all the details of the situation, but my heart immediately goes out to the wife he is leaving and all the people who he has influenced over the years. I feel their crisis of faith coming on.
My thoughts also go to the several friends I have who going through hard times. Really hard times. Hard times because of someone else’s sins and failures. Hard times because of this fallen world in general, and the illness and pain it brings. The question that comes out of all these circumstances is the same – why?
I honestly don’t have an answer, other than sin is devastating. Sometimes, we make bad decisions and bring devastation upon ourselves. In those moments, we rely on God’s mercy towards us, because He always forgives and redeems us when we confess and repent. We will still have consequences, but our relationship is restored.
We struggle more, though, when it is the sinful decisions of others that bring us hard consequences. At least when we mess up, we know why we are experiencing consequences. When we suffer because of other people’s decisions, it is harder to see God as just.
In those moments, I turn in Psalm 37.
Psalm 37 is probably best known for the 4th verse – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”. Yeah, we love that verse. God is going to give me what I desire. But when things don’t work out quite that neatly, we start to question where God is. We (I) start to wonder why God tells us to “ask and you will receive,” but doesn’t seem to follow through.
The majority of Psalm 37 does not focus on the psalmist’s desires or requests, but rather it focuses on who God is and how faithful God is to His people. And how God is not only aware of the evil in the world, but also has a plan to deal with it.
Throughout the psalm, attention is given to God’s attributes rather than the speaker’s situation. It is because of who God is that the speaker finds rest, hope, and confidence. The key phrase repeated throughout the psalm is “fret not”. The contrast to fret (worry) is trusting the Lord. He has a really good track record of taking care of His people, even when His timing or His ways are different than ours. He will always act according to His character – good, just, merciful, and gracious.
My dad is good at reminding me that ultimately, God is always concerned with our relationship with Him. Sin causes terrible things to happen. God’s work is to bring us to closer fellowship with Him regardless of the situation. We don’t have to worry because our confidence rests in God and not man.