“I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75)
Often times in my life, affliction does not feel like God’s care being poured out on me. My heart is not immediately drawn to thanksgiving and gratefulness for the faithfulness of God on display. Rather, it feels like yet another hurt is being permanently woven into my tattered and war-torn soul. It seems as if another mound of questions are piling up and just waiting for an answer and a hope.
I can relate to the writer of Psalm 42 who said “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”
It’s at those very times that the gospel is so critical. But, how do we connect the dots between what we know is true about God’s faithfulness and what our hearts feel?
When tossed about by the waves, weary from crying and when no answer seems at hand, what is the answer? When my circumstances show many foes rising up against me and my heart is prone to wander and fear, what hope is there of peace? When my feelings start controlling my thoughts, how can I rest in God’s promises?
As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones puts it in his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? … The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.
The hope of the cross gives me the confidence to know that God will never turn away from me in my need. Jesus died to meet my greatest need, and I need to preach this to myself every day. His power is greater than my weariness and suffering. The gospel reminds me that what Jesus has done is reason enough for my soul to rejoice.
It’s because of the cross that I can truly say “in faithfulness you have afflicted me” as I learn to see my sufferings in light of who God is.
“…Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)
[copyrighted, 2009, Emily Schankweiler]