Monday, August 8, 2011

Psalm 9 and the Thermometer

Since I started this blog, I have said many times that there are certain things that I have been taught that are considered truths about God.  These truths are things that I have grown up believing, but that had never really been tested in any real way.  While my faith was being tested, I held on to these beliefs, but as much as I've tried, I didn't feel it in any real way.

This might be difficult to understand if you've never felt that way before, so let me try to help.  It's like being outside in the middle of winter, completely bundled up from head to toe, leaving no skin exposed to the elements.  You're holding a thermometer and you know for a fact that it's 10 degrees outside, which, obviously, is frigid.  But, despite the cold outside, you don't feel the effects of the cold at all.  In fact, had you not been holding on to that thermometer, you never would have believed the truth about the temperature.

That's the way it's been with me.  I've felt like I've been "out in the cold" with God.  As part of a defense mechanism, I've added layer upon protective layer to keep out the "cold", whether cold means the distance I've felt between God and I or the situations I've been in.  Fortunately, I've experienced enough with God to be able to believe the truth about his goodness, or, to hold on to the thermometer.  If I had not been able to hold on to past experiences with God, I may not have been able to keep my faith.

This might not seem to relate to Psalm 9 at all, but when I look at the psalm, I see truths about God: things I have held on to as being truth, but that I haven't really had any sort of visceral, meaningful connection to.  This, of course, makes it more difficult to handle some of the situations I've been forced to deal with.  Imagine hanging on to a romantic relationship when your significant other no longer says that you are loved in ways that you can understand and also starts to do things that make life difficult and, at times, miserable for you.  You might eventually start to lose faith that your mate loves you at all.

Here are some of the examples of the "truths" that I am talking about:

  • Verse 1 mentions "wonderful deeds."  I am no stranger to the wonderful things God has done for me or people around me, but in these difficult times, it was hard to be able to point out any "wonderful deeds" that were being done in my life.
  • Verses 7 and 8 talk about how God rules from his throne with "righteousness" and judges with "equity."  I know this is true, but it goes against what I understand to be "fair."  God may have been ruling righteously and judging with equity, but I didn't understand the standards that he was using.
  • Verse 9 says "the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."   I have believed this for years, but in the times of my life that can be most described as "troubled," I felt a distinct absence of God, not a refuge or stronghold.  I'll talk more about this in a later post; I don't want anyone thinking that I'm saying anything negative about God because I'm not.
  • Verse 10 says that God has "never forsaken those who seek [him]."  That might be true, but I certainly felt forsaken.  
  • Verse 18 says that God doesn't "forget the needy" and that the "hope of the afflicted will never perish."  So, why did I feel forgotten and hopeless?
I'm going to leave it at that for tonight, but I want to make sure I reiterate something one more time: I am NOT saying anything negative about God.  Like I said at the beginning of the post, these are things I know to be true about God.  I am just trying to convey what my thought process has been these last few years while I have felt so separated from God most of the time.  Like the thermometer analogy, I am beginning to think it takes a stronger faith to believe it's 10 degrees outside when you can't feel the effects of the weather, just like it takes a stronger faith to believe certain truths about God when you can't feel the visceral effects of those truths.

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