O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.
See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. with cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.
(Psalm 83. 1-3)
Do you ever get really desperate with God about the mess that things are in? I do, I find myself full of questions and anger that so much beauty, love, and goodness are being assaulted, wasted and destroyed on a daily basis. I get furious that God’s people across the world are being oppressed, attacked and martyred every month. I despair over the ways that the family of God, the church, the body of Christ, manages to misrepresent the truth about its Lord – we fight and quarrel, we stand over in judgement against one another; we acquire wealth and status, and love to sit in the seats of power, while neglecting to love our needy neighbours and to wear the garment of humility in all our dealings with men.
It is therefore with great relief that I turn to the Psalms, to the book of songs recorded for the people of God to use in worship and in prayer, and from which generations have been blessed. These songs are not like many of those we sing nowadays, which might give the impression that being a Christian is an easy or instantly fulfilling life. Very few of our modern writers manage to accurately mirror the truth about our life of faith, with all its struggles, doubts and darkness – which are not a passing phase, but things we will live with until God takes us home and makes us new.
But the psalmists know real life. Their songs speak to my own situation, and give me words to use in prayer and worship as I come before God, as I live before him in daily life in this broken world. Do you ever think of your lament as a form of worship? I believe that it is, a most profound act of surrendering our questions, doubts, fear and anger to the one who above all has the power to heal, answer and quieten our storms. The throne of the almighty is THE place of justice, of appeal against wrong and evil. We give the Lord of Hosts his rightful place when we call upon him to put right all that is so painfully wrong in his world. It is when we recognise our own pitiful limitations and cast ourselves entirely upon him that we truly worship – give him his full worth. So let us not hold back, but come often to lay down our burdens of grief, discouragement, fear and anger at the ways which our world and particularly our race, are damaged.
It is good to be sufficiently alive to the goodness, glory and love of God that we see and feel most keenly the evil, darkness and hatred of this world. I didn’t say it was comfortable! The greater our understanding of God, the more deeply we will mourn over the ways in which his children have rebelled against him and are destroying all the beauty he has given them.
As we grow in our understanding of God’s love for us, in the riches which are available to us through faith in Jesus Christ, so we will become more and more tender-hearted toward our fellows in their need to be saved. John tells us in his gospel that “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”(Jn 3.19) Do we not see this? People reject the witness of Jesus’ followers, they shut their ears and will not listen to the offer of life, forgiveness and restoration, because they do not want to see the truth about their deeds. They would rather remain in the darkness – and how heart-breaking is that for our Father God?
When we grieve and lament over the broken lives, and corrupted world we inhabit; when we come before the One who made all things to be good and share something of his pain; when we receive a fresh vision of his love and mercy towards the lost, then we find that our witness becomes more urgent, our prayers more fervent, and our rejoicing in daily blessings more whole-hearted.
How right the psalmists were, to bring their grief and anger to God, who can use these experiences to strengthen and equip us to be more faithful servants, and to live even closer to him. Praise the Lord, O my soul!