Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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January 7 – More Reflections On Faith And Despair

“A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.  I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom You remember no more, for they are cut off from Your hand.”  Psalm 88:1-5

Devotional Thought For The Day

The exact identity of this “Heman” is uncertain as there are at least three options in Holy Scripture.  It appears that he is unlike the cartoon character of a few years ago known as “He-man,” until we look more carefully at his circumstances and see that his life of prayer and faith was indeed heroic considering his dire difficulties in life.  As we go through this psalm we will be considering some of the most basic aspects of faith, and also some of the deepest.  If God the Holy Spirit had not determined to reveal these terrible human wrestlings with deep tragedy and despair and empowered the authors of Holy Scripture to write coherently and cogently about them, it is impossible to conceive that any human being would ever have written about them.   Yet such dark despair is not uncommon to human experience, though thankfully it is fairly rare.  Most of us go through similar experience in some degree, sometimes in the midst of life, sometimes toward the end of this earthly life.

Genuine empathy for those who are encountering such utter despair is almost as painful as the actual experience, though those who empathize have the relief and respite of doing something else and having their attention diverted to more pleasant things.  We rationalize so as to regulate the grief of our empathy – as one can observe in the interactions between Job and his friends.  After all, we are not in those circumstances, and to be completely drained through empathy is improper – we still have our own responsibilities and affairs to manage; people are depending upon us and there is no excuse for us failing them.  God has not determined such a walk through tragedy and despair for us at that particular time.  So the one who goes through such despair senses also an isolation from all others – and is forced to take the matter up with God, our Heavenly Father.  He is the only One Who can bear with us and remain fully and completely present with us in all circumstances.  And when it comes to our life, our very existence and being, who we are, all of this is shared completely only with One – our Creator, our Redeemer, our Lord and God.

Unfortunately, God is often the One Who is blamed for all of our dire circumstances – in spite of our sin and guilt which has earned us far greater suffering than is imaginable, and all of the things we have chosen to do which have caused our difficulties. The struggle of faith is realizing that God can ease all of our troubles, that He can both protect and heal us, and yet not allowing the suffering to make us angry, hateful, and accusing toward God, but rather trusting that in His inscrutable wisdom He is still loving us and working all things together for our great good and blessedness, even if that means the blessedness of leaving this “vale of sorrows” for the joy of His heavenly kingdom.  This is the struggle of the psalmist – and yet he begins his prayer: “O LORD, God of my salvation” – a remarkable assertion of faith.

As we go through life in this world, the same dynamics prevail even in the lesser troubles and tragedies we experience.  We know that God is almighty, that nothing is outside of His power and ultimate determination.  We understand that He has a larger scope than we can fathom, and that His purposes are such that His working is astronomically complex and often inscrutable to us – even though His ultimate plans for us are simple and good: that we have His peace and joy and blessedness through faith in Jesus Christ, now and forever in His heavenly kingdom.  The struggles of faith are real, even in our lesser difficulties.  Entering into the greater struggles of the psalmist, by the Words of the Holy Spirit, grants us access to that grace of God which is ever sufficient, even when there is absolutely no strength left in us at all.  Hope in God is hope springing eternal, hope that cannot be defeated, so that even our struggles serve to bless us and strengthen us.  When we have learned this, then we understand and agree with the assessment of the apostle of the LORD: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  [Rom. 5:3-5]  This, regardless of what we are “feeling” or “concluding” at the moment.

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus, You know better than we the extent to which the human soul can be pressed and stretched, the strength that You have created in us, and the greater strength which Your Spirit can supply.  Grant us Your gracious presence in all our troubles and struggles, all of the pain which we experience as a result of sin and death. Grant us the peace of knowing that all things remain in Your gracious and almighty hands, and that ultimately all things must work for our good, because of Your eternal and unfathomable love for us.  Amen.