Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shepastor: “God’s Silence During Tough Times…”

Psalm 77:1-12 (KJV)

77:1 To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

77:2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

77:3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

77:4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

77:5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.

77:6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

77:7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?

77:8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?

77:9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

77:10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

77:11 I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

77:12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

While the Bible declares that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiates 1:9), these days appear to be particularly painful. The senseless killing of nine faithful individuals at a prayer service/Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina has rocked our Nation to its core. Hatred, racism, terrorism, mental illness, gun control, the “N” word and the Confederate flag have all occupied our thoughts, conversations and prayers. "What is God doing? Why did this happen? What can we do to bring about change?"

We are not alone in these musings. The Psalmists from ages ago had their own questions about pain, injustice and evil. In this particular text, the Psalmist appears to be sharing some perplexing issues with a listener. The Psalmist is struggling to understand, “Where is God?” And while we might answer rather piously that God is every where, the Psalmist states his case that where he is, it appears God is not. The nature of his difficulty is not specified, however, the mental anguish is so intense that he begins to raise questions about God’s justice and love. For even though he has been crying out to God day and night it does not seem like God is listening. The Psalmist, to say the least is having a tough time. But in the midst of his hardship, in the midst of his torment and mental anguish, the Psalmist some how makes a decision to re-direct his thoughts.

It is said that on a wall in a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where Jews had hidden from Nazis, there was found an inscription. The anonymous author who perished with his fellow victims left behind these words:
“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shinning. I believe in love even when not feeling it. I believe in God even when He is silent.”
Some years ago, the great National Baptist preacher, the Rev. Dr. Ceasar Clark preached a sermon on the silence of God or what he described as God’s pauses – the sermon focused upon the Hebrew term, selah. 05542 cela {seh’-law}. The exact meaning of the term Selah is not known, but it is thought to have been a musical term which was used at the end of a stanza or verse of music showing accentuation, pause, or interruption.

When we see it in the Biblical text, it is not to be read – it is placed there to instruct us to pause after the reading of the verse. Two of the verses in our text have Selah at the end – verse 3 which states, I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah…and verse 9: which states, Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? There’s that term again, Selah.

So when we read those verses, the Psalmist wants us to take speical note of what was said. In other words, the Psalmist is saying, “don’t just rush over these verses, read them, think about it, meditate over what I’ve just said.” Relative to what Dr. Clark was saying, sometimes God is silent. Sometimes it’s as if He pushes the “pause” button and we are left wondering, like the Psalmist – “God, where are you?”

Have you ever experienced God’s pauses? “God, where are you? Why have you pressed the pause button in my life? Why this unwanted, undeserved, unhappy, unbelievable interruption in my life? And why are you taking so long to answer? Selah!"

Have you ever experienced the pauses of God? Whatever the Psalmist was going through it was shaking the very foundation of his life. He felt abandoned by God. Listen again to what the Psalmist said from the Living Bible translation:

Verses 1-3

1 I cry to the Lord; I call and call to him, Oh, that he would listen.
2 I am in deep trouble and I need his help so much. All night long, I pray, lifting up my hands to heaven, pleading. There can be no joy for me until he acts.
3I think of God and moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray!
Verses 7-9:
Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be favorable? Is his loving-kindness gone forever? Has his promise failed? Has he forgotten to be kind to one so undeserving? Has he slammed the door in anger on his love?
The Psalmist got real! This is our first example from the Psalmist of how to make it through the tough times – We need to get real. We must admit that we are hurting, perplexed, struggling and without understanding. We must loose the “super Christian” mentality and spend some time processing the very real aspects of our human frailty. Before we can move forward, we must first “deal” with the gaping wound in our hearts. We must acknowledge that we have a problem and we don’t know how to fix it.

We have got to acknowledge that we are questioning whether or not God is going to move on your behalf. We’ve got to acknowledge that we have not gotten over the hurt and disappointments of the past if that’s an issue.

Whatever your situation is, before you can seriously begin to work through it, you’ve got to acknowledge that you have a problem that you can’t fix. The more time you spend pretending that you are not hurt, the more time you spend denying that you and God are not really on speaking terms, the more time you spend, denying that you are angy and resentful about issues from the past, the more time you spend denying that you are not over something that you are saying that you are over – that’s the less time and energy you have to truly move forward and progress through the tough times.

The Psalmist was real. He didn’t beat around the bush – he didn’t sugar coat the issue – he blantantly said, “God where are you? Why haven’t you heard me? Have you slammed the door on me?” I think we in the Christian realm have fostered an unhealthy view of our relationship with God. Many have been taught that we should not ask God, “why?” So we walk around feeling like we have to keep up this fake piety that all is well – that whatever is happening is not affecting us because we have great faith – get real!

Even when we don’t verbalize how we feel – God knows, God hears and God sees. When we are not true to ourselves and open with God – we hurt ourselves and prolong the journey through the tough times. But when we choose to “get real” like the Psalmist, we begin to release all of those toxic pinned up feelings that poison our hearts and minds and weigh us down.

Next, the Psalmist not only acknowledged his present situation, but elected to change his focus so that he could move to a new level of processing his pain. The Psalmist began to recall God’s blessings from the past. Listen to what the Psalmist declared in verses 10-12.

77:10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

77:11 I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

77:12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

Look at the Psalmist. In other words, he says, “Look, I know that I’m in a tough situation. I see all the pain all around me, I know that this is my current, or present state…but…”

When the English language was put in place, those responsible incorporated the conjunction, “but.” The conjunction, “but” signifies that something on the contrary is about to be said. In other words, when we hear the conjunction, “but” it signifies that there is something on the other hand that needs to be considered. It signifies that something contrary to expectation is about to occur. It signifies that there’s another side to the story. It signifies that all the cards have not been spread on the table. It signifies that “it ain’t over yet!”

The Psalmist changed his focus – he said, in so many words, “Despite my present circumstances, I’m going to remember that God has been good to me. I’ve got some blessed times that I can remember. I’m going to think about the miracles God has performed in the past. I’m going to remember the years of the right hand of the Most High

If you don’t understand the significance of the “right hand,” you’ll miss the profundity of what the Psalmist was saying. In ancient times, the right hand was the most honored place. Guests were seated on the right hand of the host. As a result in Hebrew, Greek and English, the right hand is a metaphor for power and honor. When the Bible speaks of the right hand of God, it is speaking of God’s omnipotence, his power to deliver, give victory and to preserve.

Maybe the Psalmist began to focus upon the miracles of God in his life. Maybe he was remembering the days when God made a way out of no way. Maybe he was remembering the days when everything seemed to fall right into place – days when he could feel God’s presence every step of the way. And maybe, as he began to recount all of God’s blesssings, all that God had brought him through all the promises that God kept in the past, all of the great things that God and only God could have done in his life – maybe he began to say within himself, “This too shall pass !” Which brings us to our third and final lesson we will look at from this Psalm to help us make it thru the tough times…remember the promises of God.

Although the Psalmist was having a tough time, although he didn’t understand why God had seemingly pushed the pause button, although he couldn’t see what God was doing or why God was doing what He was doing or how things were going to pan out – the Psalmist began to claim like Jeremiah, “this I call to rememberance, therefore I have hope – the tender mercies of the Lord faileth not, they are new every morning – Great is thy faithufulness!”

If you can call to rememberance God’s continual faithfulness in your life, if you can call to rememberacne all that God has done in the past and all God is doing right now…if you can call to rememberance all the miracles that God has performed in your life – you will get the strength to make it through the tough times.

Even though you may not see the answer, even though it may feel like God has forgotten about you – if you can call to rememberance the blessings of the Lord in your life, you’ll realize that God has never left you, nor forsaken you. You’ll remember like the writer of the now famous story, “Footprints in the sand” that the times you thought you were walking all alone, it was then that God was carrying you.

No matter what life’s circumstances are right now, ask the Lord to guide your feet, to order your steps to show you the way through the storm – remember his blessings and promises of the past and God will bring you through.

As the people of God, may we remember that the Lord has not left us, even in the tough times. By faith, we will get through this crisis. By faith, we will strive to create a better world. By faith, we will seek to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. By faith, we will remember that love is stronger than hate.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

1 comment:

  1. Such a great piece, made me realize me and Jesus really not on talking terms right now, I am just so pissed and feel closed in, I can't even scream. But you are right, gotta get real! Gotta stop trying to be nice and hollar. And you just keep preaching on ShePastor, just keep preaching on!