Psalm 73:21-16 “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
During our engagement my husband and I endured a messy and painful departure from our church. Conflict seemed to be on every side, but we happily found a new church to call home, and were largely consumed by the thrill of anticipating our coming marriage. It was a difficult season, but the purposes of God seemed clear, and His faithfulness to us was apparent.
One year into our marriage I found myself in a very different place. My career put me in a physically threatening environment, and I was overrun with anxiety. Others seemed to handle it with relative ease, while I was feeling affected by it even on my days off. Then there was the pain- constant and especially bad whenever I tried to sit still or lie in bed. It began from out of nowhere on our honeymoon, and continued to worsen relentlessly without explanation. I had developed intense insomnia, to the degree that several nights of the week I did not sleep at all. At one point I had gone 72 hours without a minute’s rest, and bear in mind, that meant not a one minute break from the pain. All this despite the prescription sleeping pills and painkillers, that I was frustratingly becoming addicted to.
I cannot tell you how many times I lost it. I mean object-throwing, foot-stomping, ripping my hair out lost it. Here I was, a Christian girl who had faithfully spoken God’s word and stood up for truth, even suffered for it, and what was my reward? Why did I deserve this? I read Romans 8:28 a hundred times, and said “I know God says all things work for good, but there is no good in this. The only thing this pain is doing is ruining me. Doesn’t God see me? Doesn’t He know that I can’t do this for another day? Why does God want to destroy me?”
Time and time again I screamed out to God. My sin, my lack of faith and trust, and even my faulty beliefs about who God was and what it meant to live as a Christian, were exposed bare and hideous before my eyes, and to be perfectly honest, I often did not see the point. Did God want to ruin my faith? Did He want to make me ugly?
Sometimes I was outraged, and terrified to find myself in such a state. There were nights I literally bit my tongue for fear of what I might say to God.
“When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.”
Bitter, brutish, ignorant, like a beast towards God- at times that was me. But there were other days dear friends.
With all my pain, anger, and confusion- I kept returning. I kept running back to the God who was the only One I knew had answers. I kept pouring over His word. He brought me low, and oh how I needed to be brought low. He was not causing me to sin (far be it from God!), but rather turning up the heat to expose the dross that was there all along, and He was intent on purging it. He cared more about my faith than my comfort. Yes, some nights were long, and hard, and I failed completely. Yet I’d find He had not left me in the morning. His mercies were new. Other nights were just as long and just as hard, yet He caused me to praise Him.
It has taken a long time for me to stop viewing God as a God who passes out tests simply to see whether I pass or fail. I used to think that if I passed, He would reward me by taking the trial away. If I failed, I thought “Now God is angry, and He will be out to get me.” I could write a book of all the foolish things I’ve thought, but God lovingly continues to expose them all.
When I look back, the then blurred purposes of God are now so clear to me. I see how far He’s brought me, how many times I’ve messed up, and how persistently He has drawn me back to Himself. I marvel at the patience, faithfulness, and kindness of my God.
I can’t read Psalm 73 with dry eyes. Do you see what it says? Can you even fathom the words? “…I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
There, I see my own story and a promise still to come, and I am blown away. “My flesh and my heart may fail,“- yes, trust me, they do fail,- “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Did you know God has compassion on you when you’ve utterly blown it? Did you know, I mean really know, that if you are His child, “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).” When the trials seem only to tear you open and expose your sin, error, and lack of trust, will you run and hide in shame, or will you run in repentance, crying for help from Him whose arms are still stunningly open? Will you believe that though right now all seems ugly, perhaps even pointless, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6)?” If you are in Christ, He’s simply not going to leave you, and perhaps the darkest nights might soon bring you to the brightest mornings.
Matthew 12:20 “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench.”
1Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” Amen.