Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Okay to Tell God How You Feel

Today is the second day in our 39th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today* are:  Zephaniah 1-3; 2 Corinthians 8; Psalm 74.

Once, I had a friend who was sexually molested as a child.  As an adult, he had a great deal of anger talking with God about this.  He told me, "I know I'm not supposed to be angry with God, but I am!"  He felt like his prayers were bottled up, because he didn't want to express his anger to God.

I told him, "God is big enough to handle your anger.  Besides, God knows how you feel already.  Nothing you say could be a surprise to Him."

Sometimes we just have to get it out.  We have to say what's on our mind.  And God is big enough to handle it.

The writer of Psalm 74 lamented the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans (586 BC).  As we read his words, we must bear in mind that these are the words of someone who is hurt and angry, sorrowing, sulking, and scared.  Some of the things that the psalmist writes are reflections of these emotions, and not actual fact.  For example:

O God, why do you cast us off forever?
    Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
    which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
    Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt (vv. 1-2).

The psalmist says that God has cast them off forever.  Yet, we know that God will never leave nor forsake His people (Dt 31:6; Heb 13:5).  This is how the psalmist is feeling--just as Jesus felt God's abandonment on the cross, without actually being abandoned by God.   When the psalmist says, "Remember your congregation," he implies that God has forgotten them, which is also untrue, since God can never forget His people (Isa 49:15).

10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
    Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
    Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them (vv. 10-11)!

Here, the psalmist accuses God of holding back His protection.  In the psalmist's mind, God's right hand, which made the heavens and earth, which struck Egypt with plagues and liberated Israel from her enemies, that right hand which could save--is comfortably tucked into God's robes, gently resting on God's bosom, rather than working for the benefit of God's children.  Is the psalmist correct in imagining a reclining God, indifferent to His people's troubles?  No--but this is how the psalmist feels, and he tells God all about it.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
    and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
    do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for the covenant,
    for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
    let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
    remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
    the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually (vv. 18-23)!

"Remember," says the psalmist, implying that God could forget.  "Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts," he prays, precisely because he thinks God might do so.  "Do not forget the life of your poor forever," the psalmist sings, because he is afraid that God might.  "Have regard for the covenant," he writes, because he believes that God indeed has disregarded it.  "Arise, O God, defend your cause," the psalmist pleads, because he imagines a resting God who needs to get active on behalf of His people.

Have you ever felt rejected, abandoned, or forsaken by God?  Even though your feelings are inaccurate, that doesn't mean they're invalid.  God is big enough to handle it, when you tell Him how you're feeling.  He can handle your anger, feelings of betrayal, and even your accusations.  He is God.

The psalmist does bear in mind God's sovereignty.  He remembers God's faithfulness in the past, His mighty deeds.

12 Yet God my King is from of old,
    working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
    you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
    you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
    you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
    you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
    you have made summer and winter (vv. 12-17).

When you're having trouble with something God did, or something permitted in the past--or when you're upset about the present situation or the seeming bleakness of the future--do what the psalmist did.  Remind yourself of God's power and strength, His ability to save and do mighty things on your behalf.  See how God has been faithful throughout history, and trust that He is the same God, even today.  As He was faithful for the people of the past, He will be faithful to you.

*Scriptures taken from the ESV.

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