Lost closeness to God

Psalm 77

Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his love again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in his anger withheld his compassion? (Ps 77.7-9)

For how many do these verses reflect their current spiritual experience. It is not so much, I have lost faith in God, it is more, “I just don’t feel it anymore.” The setting for this psalm was probably the fall of Jerusalem when it seemed to many as though God had reneged on his promises and declaration of love towards Israel. There is little more devastating than being overrun by a brutal foreign power, having homes and countryside reduced to waste, no longer having one’s own government or control of one’s life. Family, friends and community members killed, raped, imprisoned, deported. “Where is God in this?” is the cry. It is both an individual prayer and a community prayer. Let us remember this is not just an ancient history picture, the same it is being played out in our world today where smaller people groups are being driven out by dominant neighbours, often barely reported in the world media.

These words could be the repeated prayer in the UK today as for several days in succession the Coronavirus death rate has been over 900 a day. It is not simply the tragic death rate that has caused despair, it is all the knock-on impact to medical services, family life and the economy. From, I cannot hold my sister’s baby to being made homeless in the freezing winter.

It is important to recognize the level of suffering that is being experienced and spiritual suffering that often goes alongside. The psalmist has not denied God he simply feels he cannot find him. ‘In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.’ v2 He remembers good times for himself and his people but now he cannot pray, he cannot speak or sing and feels outside of God’s love. He doubts this will ever change. How many, for whatever reason, would say this is exactly how they feel now?

It was only when the psalmist was able to alter the direction of his thoughts towards what he knew of God and his deeds, that he could he see a way of salvation. He reflected on the escape Israel made from captivity in Egypt and described God’s intervention as unseen footprints. ‘Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.’ v19  The psalmist’s language had changed from the repeated ‘I’ in verses 1 to 9, to ‘you’ and ‘your’ in verses 10 to 20.

Of even greater relevance for the modern Christian is to look back to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection as our exodus and evidence of God’s love, compassion and presence with us during our suffering. It is when we consider this that we can say along with the psalmist, ‘Your ways are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.’ v13

When we are feeling down and even out do we remember God’s constancy?

Even in times of trouble have we managed to remember all that Jesus has done?

Have we helped others in their times of trouble to look to Jesus?

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

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