Reflections On The Presence and Providence of God


As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”;
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalm 42:1-3, 11 NRSV

The psalms are the ancient hymnbook of Israel. They came into their own during the Babylonian Captivity (597-538 B.C.) when the Jews were defeated in battle by the Babylonians, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, (except for the western wall of the temple, the “wailing wall”), and the people, carried into exile, found themselves as strangers in a foreign land, broken hearted and with their faith almost shattered.

Whether Jews or Christians, we often turn to the psalms for times of deep prayer, because the psalms contain everything in the human condition. They are like a spaghetti sauce commercial from a few years back, where a person asked, “Are there tomatoes in the sauce?” “They’re in there.” “How about basil?” “It’s in there!” “What about pepper?” “It’s in there!” Well, you get the point. Everything that we face in life is in the psalms. There are times of praise. There are times of lamentation and grief. There are times of intense anger at unfair situations. There are times when the psalmist marvels at the majesty of our God, who supplies us with everything we need, at all times in life, and in all conditions in life. Not even death is something to be feared. (See Psalm 139:7-8)

Most of all, in Psalm 42, the sons of Korah (who composed this psalm) understood that in life we all “thirst” for God just as surely as a deer thirsts for flowing streams of water. As a pastor, I have listened to many hurts expressed by people, some of them part of the church, some not. I have listened to the uncertainties of life, which weigh people down, and the griefs, which often collect and remain deposited within us, again, weighing down our spirits.

In times like those, our options are to remain beaten down and to give up, or, instead, a much better option, to turn to God in deep prayer. How can we do this? Jesus, Himself, gave us instructions for this. They are found in the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 6: But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6 NRSV)

Find a quiet place (no television, no stereo, no blaring noise), and just sit or walk in the presence of God. Invite God to be with you and within you. And walk with God. And pour out your heart and soul to God. It’s not even necessary to use words. Sometimes our deepest prayers are just the wordless feelings of our hearts and souls. (See Romans 8:26-27). Give them to God. And the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, will intercede for us with the Father. It is as if our prayers are carried to heaven before God’s throne like incense.

What difference will it make, you might ask? When we pray like this, the heartache and worry that we carry is replaced with a deep sense of peace. There are times when we have done everything we can to try to address problems, and the problems are just too big for us! It is especially important that in moments like this, that we “let go, and let God.” By that, I mean, let go of our stresses and strains and surrender them into the hands of God. Martin Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” expresses this when he writes: Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;His kingdom is forever.

One of the wonderful things about our God and about faith, is that we know that we may not be sufficient, but God is. We can’t always have things the way we would like them to be. That’s a hard lesson to learn. But, as we surrender to God’s will (and a loving Father would never cause a child a needless tear), we discover that somehow, in the long run, things will be okay.

I know that that seems almost too hard to believe, especially for those of us who are “doers” and very “action oriented.” But, for all of us, there come moments, when we have used our God given gifts and done the best we can to honor God and give glory to God, and we must surrender the results into God’s capable hands. After all, we’re not God. Yes, we have hopes and dreams. But, God may have a better dream waiting for us up ahead!

So, my friends, trust the Lord! God will provide. And to quote a great Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich: “And all shall be well; and all shall be well; and all manner of things shall be well.”

Amen. So be it.

The Waynedale News Staff

Reverend Chris B. Madison

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