The last couple months have been difficult for me. Though I am thankful that nothing tragic or life-threatening has occurred, it has been a season of many small burdens in my life that add up to weightiness. I have felt weary, and as I often do when things are hard, I have gravitated toward the Psalms. I know I’m not alone in my love for the Psalms. They are just so relatable. The psalmists are brutally honest about their doubts, fears, and loneliness. Repeatedly, they question if God is there, why he doesn’t intervene, why their enemies flourish, and why God is silent as they cry out for help and comfort. I can identify with those questions. Can you?
As I wend my way through the Psalms, I’ve noticed that often, after expressing indignation over the unfairness of evil prevailing or doubt that God is there, the psalmist will transition with “but.” But I trust in your unfailing love. But the Lord sits enthroned forever. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me. But I know the Lord hears when I call to him. After David and the other authors give vent to their honest feelings, they remind themselves of the truth that may not feel true in the moment: God is good, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He hears them, and he loves them.
This balance of feelings and truth is what we often lack. Maybe we don’t have the courage to be honest that we are struggling, fearing that if we admit our hurt or questions, we will discover that our faith is not strong enough to bear up under it, or that others will judge us critically. Or perhaps we are not afraid to admit the struggles, but instead we wallow in them, allowing them to distort our view of God, and failing to remember that our feelings don’t always reflect the truth about God’s character.
Life is hard. It was hard for the psalmists and it is hard for us. We live in the same cursed home they did, a home permeated with sin, suffering, loss, and death. While most of us do not have enemies trying to literally kill us as David did, we know real fears and heartaches of more mundane varieties. We face illness, anxiety, rejection, broken relationships, marital struggles, rebellious kids, financial strain, and loss of loved ones. We are right to groan, to weep, to wonder why things are the way they are. God loves us enough to embrace us in our sorrow and questioning, and he grieves along with us over the fall of his perfect creation.
And yet, in our groaning, we find hope in following the psalmists’ example. When giving vent to our honest feelings and doubts, we must take care not to camp out there. As we weep or thrash against sorrow and injustice, we must remember, “But.” But I trust in your unfailing love. But the Lord sits enthroned forever. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me. But I know the Lord hears when I call to him. We should embrace our feelings, and then we must tell our feelings where to go. We send our feelings to the Word of God which reminds us of the Lord’s goodness, omnipotence, and love for us.
If you aren’t currently in the midst of difficulty, you can be sure that difficulty is coming. How’s that for encouragement? But it’s true. Job, a man quite familiar with suffering, accurately perceived reality when he said that man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upwards (Job 5:7). We will all face hardship, if not now, then sometime in the future, because that’s how life works on a fallen planet. One of the best ways we can prepare to deal righteously with hard times is by working in times of flourishing to bolster our confidence in God’s goodness. When things are peaceful, joyful, and plentiful, we must remind ourselves of God’s character, immerse ourselves in His Word, and prepare ourselves so that when grief and trials arrive, we can say with the psalmists, “But.” But I trust in your unfailing love. But the Lord sits enthroned forever. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me. But I know the Lord hears when I call to him.