“In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.
But you have rejected us and disgraced us….” Ps 44:8-9a
Honestly, this Psalm makes me a little uncomfortable. Could I really cry out in such a raw and honest manner? Especially aloud? Do we really boast in God and yet He still rejects us? Does this break the “rules”? How does this fit with the His promises of steadfast love and faithfulness for his own covenant people? Yet, at the same time, the words of this Psalm resonate. They reflect the struggle I feel so often in my soul when the trial goes on and on. When the questions come faster than the answers. When the soul longs to rest free from turmoil and pain. Is this an “acceptable” Psalm?
When I first approached this Psalm, it read like countless others recalling the glorious deeds of the Lord for Israel. So far so good. The formula was familiar. Beautiful reminders and bold truths setting God apart from all others. The Psalmist highlights His work settling them in the land, His power driving out the enemy. The Psalmist is not even taking the credit for the victories. He is giving it all to God “…for not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved me from our foes….” The Psalmist is confident in God’s abilities based on God’s past faithfulness to His people. So far, a very acceptable psalm.
It does not remain acceptable, however, for that confidence in God’s ability is not actually translating into confidence for the troubles of the day. Instead questions abound. The Psalmist seems to ask, “will God do actually save us again?” This question plagues his heart. “Will God actually save us again?” After all, in the present moment, circumstances are dismal. And to make things worse this is apparently God’s doing. “You have sold your people (remember His covenant people) for a trifle….”
But why he asks? What sin has caused this? For “All this has come upon us though we have not forgotten you and we have not been false to your covenant” (vs17). So we have a people readily acknowledging God past faithfulness, presently keeping the covenant without evidence of flagrant sin yet God has sold them to their enemies.
How do we put this together? God’s harsh treatment and ongoing silence just do not add up. He is actually making the enemy to triumph over them. Even with confession of any secret or unrecognized sin, “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread our hands to a foreign god would not God discover this?”, the confusion continues. The pleas continue.
By the end of the Psalm, they are still crying out, “Awake Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.” Though they continue to wait and continue to plead in the strongest of terms, “For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.” In the end they know that they can continue to call on Him for one reason: “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” (vs26). They continue to call, despite the suffering and confusion of the moment, despite the fact that God is not acting according to the category: Do this and He will do that. Despite the fact that the suffering goes on from one bad situation to the next, they know that based on His faithfulness in the past and His covenantal promises for the future, they must continue to call upon Him. He will answer for the sake of His own name. For the sake of His covenantal promises of care and protection for his own.
Interestingly, later, in the New Testament, Paul actually quotes a verse from this Psalm, “Yet for your sake we are being killed all the day long, we are regarded as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36). Paul is harkening back to the theme of this Psalm. He is addressing the confusion that often attends intense and prolonged sufferings. He is reminding us that nothing shall separate us from the “love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39). Not even “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword….” (Romans 8:34). Like the people of the Old Covenant, Paul knew that though the present circumstances seem to hide His face, though the present troubles persist in their taunting, the covenantal steadfast love of God ultimately makes us to conquer the enemy. For the people of the New Covenant, we understand that this love flows through Christ.
So, in the long dark night of the soul, whether it be an unrelenting illness, financial hardship, job uncertainty, a wayward child, or any other of the myriad of trials that humankind goes through on this earth, we must still cling to the steadfast love of God. Even when it feels like He has forgotten us. He is faithful to His covenant and will fulfill all His promises—at just the right time, in just the right way. Let us pray with the faith and honesty of the saints of old even if the words seem a little “unacceptable” at times. For the saints of God, honesty tempered by humility helps us live outside the categories of our own making and hold tenaciously to His steadfast love.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.