One of the side effects that suffering can tempt a heart to is belly-button staring, looking down into my circumstances to the exclusion of High Up God. Exhausting my brain to ask the questions here in the human realm really only brings a limited degree of healing, and we aren’t ever promised satisfying answers this side of Christ’s return.
My brain would spin with a cosmic chess match, how my own choices and those of others had set a disappointing course of life into action, what would happen if I had done (fill in the blank) differently, completely missing the sovereign working of God; that thought tornado never went anywhere constructive. Even still, unanswered questions can echo in my heart.
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
If we didn’t have other narratives from scripture, I might think David lived a pretty plucky life, but we know otherwise… skeletons of sin in his closet, taking another man’s wife, deceit, murder, passively overlooking major sin in his sons, years on the receiving end of a man hunt, David speaks through some deep valleys. So when he pens about being delivered from fears, walking through shame to radiance, crying out to the Lord and being saved from his troubles, he really gets it.
Elsewhere in this same poem he sings of tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, being blessed for taking refuge in Him, lacking no good thing for seeing the Lord, learning the fear of the Lord, the nearness of the Lord to the brokenhearted (ok, just read the whole thing!) This man knows his saving-God as a near friend.
This talk of radiant faces, it reminds me of Moses, the one man chosen to ascend Mount Sinai into the consuming fire and thundering presence of our God. “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God,” Exodus 34:29. This Moses, also a murderer, had stood before the presence of God Almighty and received the Lord’s transmission of radiance to his human countenance. Unbelievable. Ol’ Flashlight Face didn’t even know what had become of him; he was too consumed with the glory of God to even know!
David gets practical and I love it. He sought the Lord, looked to Him, cried out to Him. My first reaction in pain is to get out boxing gloves in my head, “How is God letting them get away with that?! How could they think that’s ok? Do I matter here at all? How completely unloving and wrong of that person…” (it can get uglier, I told you I needed rescuing). But we’re invited by God to seek Him. Opening the Word of God, pouring out my heart and then actually listening to what He speaks through His written Word. Sing-pray a few hymns. Get on my face on the floor and really cry to Him, then get still and quiet and receive the peculiar peace, the strange stillness He brings to deliver me. My world gets appropriately smaller and my God appropriately bigger. And I’m still only seeing the shadows of His bigness instead of frantically figuring out the situation in the human world that I can’t control anyway.
It’s happening for you too, brothers and sisters. We have even greater hope in this permanent new covenant that we’ve received through the work of Jesus on the cross. I’ll leave you with this sweet song we sing last before lights out for our daughters:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(honk honk, ends my three year old)