LESSONS THROUGH PAIN, AFFLICTION & DESPAIR (PSALM 102)
Have you ever felt as if you were in utter despair, all alone and even God is not hearing your cries for help? Life brings us many unexpected events that that can cause great feelings of pain and despair. As Christians, we know are not exempt from pain and suffering. Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Whether through our own personal crisis’ or the effects caused by all the craziness in the world right now, the experience of the feelings of pain and affliction are very real and can seem overwhelming. While in the throes of severe pain and affliction the writer of Psalm 102 cries out to God in agonizing detail of his situation. “For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. My heart is blighted and withering like grass.” This is truly a man who feels hopeless and abandoned. It’s almost hard to imagine the depth of his afflictions! However, an entire reading of Psalm 102 reveals some very interesting and hopeful truths. Affirming God’s Power and Sovereignty: After he cries out to God in describing his hopeless situation, we see the psalmist in verse 12 quickly turn his focus of affliction to affirmation and he calls out God’s power and sovereignty. “But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.” The beginning of healing and deliverance from afflictions occurs when we call on the name of the Lord and affirm His great power and authority. Verbalizing these truths also helps to remind us that He is not only able to deliver, but it is also His desire to do so. When Zephaniah prophesied over Israel, he affirmed God’s might and His delight in His people. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Not only does He take great delight in His love for us, but he adds the wonderful bonus of rejoicing over us with singing! What a great God we serve! God Has an Appointed Time: The psalmist next declares and acknowledges in verse 13 that God has an appointed time. “You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.” Understanding God has an appointed time for everything helps to bring perspective to our situation. Pain has a way of making us feel alone and isolated from the world around us. It’s can be hard to see what God is doing during these times. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he reminds them “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.“ Looking back has a way to reveal a clearer picture of what God was doing during the storm. Every season of suffering will reveal lessons we may have not have otherwise learned had we not been subject to the difficulty. God wastes nothing in life, and he uses every detail to teach and strengthen us in our walk of faith. I admire my wife’s wisdom. One of her sayings is “God doesn’t just leave us twisting in the wind.” That’s a pretty good description of His faithfulness. There is always a new day when God will reveal that faithfulness. Ecclesiastes reminds us that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” This particular scripture goes on to detail both good times and hard times as appointed by God. Looking back can be a very powerful way to realize God’s perfect (appointed) timing. While I was attending Bible college as a young man I was asked to come on staff as a youth pastor at a growing church. It was a wonderful time and my young adult ministry was thriving and growing. After a few years there was a directional shift in the church. To shorten an otherwise long and detailed story, suffice it to say I was not particularly enthusiastic about the new direction and my time of ministry there came to a very abrupt and painful end. What was more painful than being dismissed was the words the senior pastor spoke over me when he suggested that I should ‘reconsider my calling’. This man was my mentor and someone I deeply admired. This was devastating and I began to doubt the calling that I was certain God’s had placed on my life. I left the ministry and Kathy and I eventually started a business, which supported us through the years. It took years for me to work through feelings of self-doubt and rejection. During those years though, God used me in so many different I could not have imagined had I not gone through this storm. In looking back, I was able to clearly see God’s appointed and orchestrated timing. Psalm 30 says, “for his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” As hard as it may be, it is important to embrace the pain and lean into God, knowing His appointed time is perfect. The Power of Personal Testimony: In verse 18 the Psalmist says, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:” There is nothing more powerful than the word of personal testimony. Each of the Apostles faced the hardships of persecution and personal struggle as they spread the Gospel after Jesus’ resurrection. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit it was their personal testimony that allowed each of the apostles to preach and ultimately spread the gospel throughout the world. Their testimonies became much of what comprises the New Testament. Every personal testimony has power to change lives. Not only to this generation, but for those yet to come. In Revelation 12 John, in describing deliverance over the devil he wrote “they triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Your triumphant testimony of God’s deliverance and power has the power to serve as a lesson to your children and your children’s children. I’ll never forget something our oldest daughter, Taylor said to Kathy and me not long after we had gone through a particularly difficult season. “Mom and Dad” she said, “I watched how you went through that time and how you handled yourselves. You could have chosen to be bitter and become angry, but you didn’t”. Wow, her words not only melted my heart, but also demonstrated how powerful our testimony of that situation was to our children. Our kids, whether young kids or adults take note of how we act in the face of adversity. How you handle adversity speaks volumes to them and others as well. Press In & Stand Firm: As difficult times of trial and pain are, be sure to stand firm and proclaim, affirm, and declare His power. Press in and be sure to understand that God’s appointed timing is perfect. You’ll see what God wrought in you when you come out of the store. Finally, be sure to recount your story and declare your testimony. It has the power to change lives. May God richly bless your journey.