“why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:25 NRSV)
“What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours” So goes the opening to the classic R&B song made famous by Dinah Washington. The idea is fairly simple, a single day can make a great difference. If that’s true what kind of difference does five years make?
As I said last week I recently returned from my 30 year. college reunion. This is, by the way the second of a trilogy of blogs about that weekend. I promise not to bore anyone or extend it any farther than that. 30 years ago I graduated from college. The idea fascinates and horrifies me simultaneously.
We gather together every five years, and let me tell you at this point five years makes a huge difference. I don’t know if there is that much of a difference when you come to your 5th year reunion. Oh you may be married or have a job, even a child. But any are still in grad school or just starting out. 5 to 10 probably brings some changes, 10 to 15 there are changes, but they are, for the most part, exciting ones. I mean you are still in your thirties for heaven’s sake.
But with each reunion the changes become greater. I can attest the changes from 25th to the 30th reunion brought not only great changes but the changes themselves become different. less excitement, perhaps, and more poignancy. Now that’s not to say there aren’t exciting changes, marriages the birth of a first grandchild. But there are other changes as well.
On the Saturday of our reunion, after our class lunch we gathered for prayer. One of the tremendous perks of graduating from a small Christian college, now University, is the depth of spiritual care one continues to receive. But as we went around, I was struck by the changes and trials so many were facing. Several had lost their spouses,many of them within the past year or two. Several asked for prayers because of health issues. Many had battled cancer. Some had struggles within their relationships. Others voiced concerns over job situations.
I want to be quick to point out that I don’t believe our class is under some great spiritual battle, or that we are being attacked in particular by demonic forces. Most of this is simply the consequences of being at this particular stage in our lives. Live long enough and you experience loss. You get sick. Not every relationship is where you, or God wants it to be. As many shared, I found myself wondering what will this be like in another five years, or in ten?
But then I began to listen closer and in virtually every prayer request in the middle of the confusion and anger and sadness, I discovered a testimony. A testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness. Many thanked God for answering prayer. Others simply for His abiding presence, His peace He gave them as they went through their times of struggle. They gave testimony that the goodness of God is not dependent on our situations. That it transcends our situations. God is good, even if our times are not. This gave them hope. There was much joy as we prayed for one another, even in the midst of our struggles.
In a way our time of prayer reminded me of the lament psalms of David. David’s laments can be brutal, sometimes even accusatory of God. Read the verse at the beginning of this blog. David accuses God of sleeping on the job. He accuses him of neglect. This doesn’t mean that God was sleeping or neglectful. But it was how David felt. One of the reasons David is a man after God’s own heart is that he was brutally honest about how he felt with God. David wasn’t always in a good place. He felt depressed, angry , vengeful and neglected. That is to say pretty much like all of us.
Yet, just like our reunion time of prayer, In the very same Psalms David is able to give God praise and honor God’s goodness. (“Rise up and redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” Psalm 44:26 NRSV) David too, understood that God’s goodness does not always depend on our situations.
David is honest with God in ways we often aren’t comfortable. We don’t often accuse God, we don’t often come to God from the raw pit of our emotions. we would rather paint a thin veneer of “Christian-eze” over our prayer time. And then we wonder why we don’t experience the depth of God’s goodness in the midst of our daily lives.
But what if David is on to something? What if we can’t really get to the joy and trust in God’s goodness as long as we are afraid to be honest with God about how we feel? What if our relationship with the Lord depended on honesty like all relationships? When we refuse to come to God out of tech depths of our despair, are we not settling for a God so small He doesn’t know our hearts? Or a God too small to handle the rawness of our emotions?
Understand I’m not saying being honest with God is a way to vindicate unchristian emotions or feelings. What I am suggesting is when we are less than honest with God, we damper both the depth of our relationship and the power of God to begin healing us.
What ever you are going though today, I’d encourage you to be a person after God’s own heart. Be honest with God in the midst of your despair for it is only there that we can find the anchor of God’s goodness that holds us in the storms.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><