Trusting in times of lamentation

Psalm 13

After a fairly substantial interlude, I’m returning this week to my series of reflections on the Psalms, picking up where I left off with Psalm 13.

This is a psalm is a psalm of lament. These are some of my favourite psalms because they are so real and raw and honest. One thing I notice about this one, as with so many others, it has the instruction at the start ‘to the choirmaster’ – implying it was to be used in Israel’s times of corporate worship. I often forget when I’m reading the Psalms that many of them were not simply written as personal prayers. Some of these passages are so full of pain and even anger at God, and they weren’t secret, but instead were public expressions of grief, confusion and doubt. I don’t know much about ancient Hebrew worship services, but I find it encouraging and challenging that they could be so honest in community. It’s something that I wish we would be more comfortable with in our churches today, but maybe it’s just not very British?!

In this Psalm, David feels like God has forgotten him. He is full of sorrow – in today’s terms we would probably say he is depressed – and he feels defeated, as if his enemies are crowing over him. He is asking God to give him new hope because he feels hopeless. But he remembers that God has blessed him in the past, and so he knows he can trust in God. He is confident that he will be restored and that he will be able to praise God joyfully again in the future.

Sometimes, for us too, it can feel like God is far away, that our plans are failing while others are succeeding, like evil is winning in the world. When this happens, we need to remember that God is both Good (Yahweh – LORD) and Great (Elohim – God). He can always bring new hope to us, as we remember all that He has done in the past – both for us individually but also as witnessed by others in the Bible or in the testimonies of people we know. This encourages us to keep trusting Him for the future.

When I read the psalms of lament, it reminds me that I need to be real with God. To open up about my hurts, my fears and my struggles and to hand them over to Him. When the world seems so messed up, I need to cry out to God. When He seems far away, that is when I need to cling on hardest to my faith and keep trusting in His goodness and greatness.

A Glimpse of the Future?

I recently read the novel Flashforward, which was made into a TV show a few years ago that was cancelled after one season and ended on a massive cliff hanger… I read the book because I had enjoyed the show, but other than the basic concept and a couple of character names, the book bore little resemblance to the show and, sadly, did not live up to expectation. It is very rare for me to say this, but the show was better than the book it was based on…

Anyway, this blog isn’t really about the show or the book – it’s about the idea. The concept of the novel is that for two minutes, unexpectedly, the entire population of Earth blacks out and their consciousness is transported twenty-one years and six months into the future, where they experience two minutes as their future selves.

When they return to the present, they have a lot of questions – what caused the phenomenon? Should they try to repeat it? And, most importantly, is the future they saw fixed, or can it be changed?

Although the book was a disappointment, it did get me thinking – if I had the opportunity to see my future, would I take it? Do I want to know what will happen to me a few years down the line – and would I try to change it if I knew?

I generally have an overactive imagination, and spend a lot of idle moments thinking about where I’d like to live, how and where I might meet the man of my dreams, what schools would I send my hypothetical children to, what job I want when I finish my course… But while I enjoy the speculation, I like the openness of my future right now. I like that I have options, and that I don’t know what is coming. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it would be nice to know for certain that I will get married, and what his name might be so that I can pay attention when he comes along… but at the same time I know I’m better off not knowing.

In Matthew 6v25-34, Jesus tells the crowds not to worry about the future, because there will be enough to worry about when it comes along. He’s talking specifically about provision – comforting us that God knows what we need and will provide it, so we don’t need to fret. But I think it applies more generally. The present is all we really have, because we don’t know what is around the corner. So we’re wasting our time if we stress ourselves out over the details of our futures. I don’t think this means that we shouldn’t make plans at all, rather that we shouldn’t be so obsessed with the future that we miss out on enjoying the here and now.

Not knowing the future also gives us hope. One of the characters in the book is convinced that the future is set, and there is nothing he can do to change it, and it starts to have a negative impact on the choices he makes in the present. As Christians it is often a comfort to us to know that God has plans for our future, and I believe that He does, but they are not strict and immovable. God has also given us free will, which allows us to involve ourselves in His plans, rather than have them dictated to us. Yes He guides us, and He has an ultimate plan for creation, but He will not force us into doing things. At the same time, He is always working behind the scenes to bring about His will.

Does that sound like a contradiction? It kind of is… God’s omniscience regarding the future is something I’ve really been struggling to get my head around in the past year… And I don’t think I’m any closer, but I’m happy to live in the contradiction of a God who knows the future yet gives me free will to determine how mine will pan out.

When life gets messy, we can have hope that the future will be better, different. We can also trust that God is looking after us, directing our steps (Proverbs 16v9), and working for our good (Romans 8v28).

More words coming soon… I really promise…

so I know what I said… That when I finished my essay and my course was done for the summer I would have more time to write etc etc etc but what I’ve found is I’ve needed a bit of time of not writing to give my brain a rest. Also, Wimbledon is on and that is such a pleasant distraction and has really been helping me unwind…

But I do have a few things ticking over in my brain and I just need to sit down and write them out. And I plan on doing it soon. I can’t go very long without writing. I need to write regularly in order to function. It’s how I process life – even if what I’m writing bears little resemblance to what is happening around me. It’s the process of taking a jumbled bundle of thoughts in my head and making them into something that other people can understand. I feel better just for these few short paragraphs.

So bear with a little longer and new stuff will be appearing here soon 🙂