A Faith Robust Enough to Wrestle with God
D.A. Carson observes, “There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God.”
Carson’s words capture the essence of Psalm 44. The psalm begins by looking back at God’s goodness to the people of Israel, delivering them from slavery in Egypt and establishing them in the Promised Land (verses 1-8). But then the psalmist pours out a complaint about their present problems, wondering where God is now: “Yet you have rejected us and abased us, and have not gone out with our armies. You made us turn back from the foe, and our enemies have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter, and have scattered us among the nations” (verses 9-11). “You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face” (verses 13-15).
In his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey shares a story by “Lynn” that gets to the heart of the issue: “Unfortunately, my parents’ professed faith did not translate into their family life. About the age of eight I was molested by a relative, and I was emotionally and psychologically abused and neglected by both parents for as long as I can remember. I chose to cope by being a good girl, disappearing into the woodwork and performing perfectly, never acknowledging that I was in pain. Then at age nineteen I was involved in a horrible auto accident which took the life of my best friend. On the outside I clung to God with all my strength. But on a deeper, subconscious level I was enraged with God that he would allow such a tragedy, that he would ‘take’ my friend from me knowing how she was family to me when I had none of my own. I became convinced in my heart that God was just like my father—uncaring, cruel, a betrayer of trust.”
She continues, “With the help of a highly skilled Christian therapist I began an emotional journey that has often seemed unendurable and endless. The feelings that had been pushed down inside of me for so many years gushed out all at once and threatened to overwhelm me. A large part of my healing process has been to try to come to terms with God—no small task. I have challenged him, cried with him, raged at him, and clung to him…. I have asked the hard questions, laid it all out, and waited for his answers. My journal is thick with entreaties and longings and grief. I have cried more than I ever thought humanly possible and felt such intense pain that at times I felt my body simply could not endure it.” (In other words, “Lynn” struggled with God as openly and honestly as Psalm 44 does.)
“Lynn” concludes, “God has, for the time being at least, settled many of my questions by answering my crucial one: Do you love me, God? That was at the heart of my turmoil and confusion and that was the one he has answered with a resounding ‘YES!!’ Over and over and over again God has revealed his love for me in countless, varied, and creative ways. In those moments the tears of pain become tears of joy and grateful relief to finally, finally be loved—fully, freely, eternally.”
I find great hope in the fact that the apostle Paul takes one of the most despairing statements of Psalm 44 (verse 22: “Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter”) and weaves it into the great assurance of Romans 8:36-39: “As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When you are struggling, take on “a faith so robust it wrestles with God.” As you do so, I pray that you will discover with “Lynn” and with Paul that you are deeply loved by God—“fully, freely, eternally.”