When God Seems Asleep

You’ve got to love the Psalms. They weren’t just syrupy feel-good songs which ignored the realities of life, sin, and death. Take Psalms 44 for instance. It begins by recounting God’s hand in the Israelite’s victories. “They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them.” (Psalm 44:3, NLT) But things weren’t so rosy when this Psalm was written.

Later in Psalm 44 the account shifts from what God had done in the past to what He seems to be failing at for them at that moment. “Yet You have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, And do not go out with our armies. You cause us to turn back from the adversary; And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.” (Psalm 44:9–10, NASB95) That’s just a taste, you really need to read the whole passage. The Psalmist maintains that this happened even though they didn’t stray from the covenant or forget God. To the Psalmist it seems that God is asleep (vs. 23) as they write, “But for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22, NASB95) The Psalm ends with a petition for God to “Rise up, be our help, And redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness.” (Psalm 44:26, NASB95)

The Apostle Paul picks up the lament of Psalms 44 as he writes to the persecuted church in Rome. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:35–36, NASB95) Tribulations and distress were the realities of the time. And you think you had a bad day? Ok, maybe you did.  Our life situations are not a thermometer that indicates how much God loves us. God loves us when we have a mountaintop day or a valley day.

The difference between the desperate plea of the Psalmist and Paul’s words to the Roman’s is Jesus. The Psalmist was pleading with God to again give them victory and good days. Paul celebrates in the very next verse, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, NASB95) Or as the NLT puts it – “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, NLT) The victory has already been won in Jesus. What the Psalmist could only hope for, followers of Jesus walk in. It doesn’t mean that every day will be a good day. Paul made his declaration of overwhelming victory in the midst of troubles, tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, poverty, peril and war.  “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57, NASB95)

Dale Heinold
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