Where Is God When It Hurts
Is it unspiritual to feel forsaken? While the feeling itself is not spiritual, it is important to know emotions are also not unspiritual. Authenticity is an essential attribute of true spirituality. Being honest about how we feel is not the same as letting our feelings control us, and going through a hard time does not mean you are less spiritual than someone who is not.
Inauthentic spirituality wants you to feel guilty about feeling bad. It says to have something going wrong in your life means there must be something wrong with you. This faux spirituality projects an image of perfection that easily chips under further inspection.
Is It OK To Be Honest About Our Pain
Psalm 38 is an excellent example of how God encourages us to be honest about our hurts, doubts, and sufferings.
We first see that he is honest about his sins and shortcomings.
1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
Performance Christianity makes it challenging to find healing and deliverance from our sins because that mentality makes it difficult for us to own and take responsibility for our mistakes. When imperfection leads to rejection, redemption becomes impossible. Instead, we get hiding, defending, and hypocrisy.
Authenticity Is Not UnSpiritual
As we continue with this Psalm, we see that authenticity is celebrated, not avoided.
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
Some may say that David is being negative and needs to focus on the bright side of things. That perspective causes us to miss out on the hidden treasure found in God only when we bring our authentic feelings to Him.
Not Everyone Understands Our Pain
Then we come to feelings of rejection.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.
Have you ever been in a situation that is so bad when friends try to relate their lack of understanding only highlights the pain more? They want to summarize your suffering in an attempt to empathize, but as foreigners to your turmoil, they fall short of fully describing your experience.
This is a tough place to be, but you are not alone. We have Psalms like this to remind us that when no one else understands, God does. He is with this in these moments. When human friendship falls short of relating to our sorrow, we get an invitation to intimacy with God that we would not have received otherwise. He draws us in, under the shadow of his wing, to offer comfort and refuge.
How To Respond to Difficult People
People are not the enemy, but as this Palm shoes, the enemy uses people to introduce conflict in our spiritual path. How does David respond to these attacks?
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
David uses these attacks to fine-tune his spiritual sensitivities. He knows some voices should be ignored. We should not listen to them, and we need not engage with them. Instead, we should refocus on elevating God’s voice above all others and responding to what He says about us and to us.
15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.
What We Learn From Waiting
Waiting is what makes authentic Christianity difficult. We do not want to deal with waiting. It gives us the opportunity to doubt ourselves and God and to believe our enemies are right. It takes more faith to wait than it does to act, sometimes.
Something else happens when we learn to ignore the wrong voices, listen to the right voice, and wait before acting.
18 I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
When we do this, we are able to recognize the sin in our lives that hinders our relationship with God, others and prevents us from being the best reflection of them. When we respond to every attack and wrong voice, then we fall into the trap of blaming others and overlooking our own shortcomings. When we tune our spiritual station to God’s voice and wait, we often do not hear him pointing out what is wrong with others, but rather what he wants to change in us.
The Path to Redemption
This does not mean that the problem people in your life will go away.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.
I have found that the names and faces change, but there will always be “problem people” in my life. My goal is not to change them or remove them. Instead, I try to focus on what needs to change and be removed from me.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!
God will be a refuge for you when you feel attacked and a comforter when you feel forsaken. That does not mean that he also does not want to help you grow through your adversity. I do not think His final plan of redemption for you is possible without you going through that metamorphosis. You will have to change ad God changes your circumstances for you.