We all have those seasons. The ones where it seems all is going wrong. The ones where it feels as if God has taken off for another town, country, and continent altogether. Those are the seasons when discouragement is close at hand. Despair is knocking on the door.
O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. Psalm 88: 1-2 (NIV)
God, you’re my last chance of the day. I spend the night on my knees before you. Put me on your salvation agenda; take notes on the trouble I’m in. Psalm 88:1-2 (MSG)
I got to the end of Psalm 88. I was waiting for the hopeful moment. I turned the page hoping that the 18th wasn’t the last verse. Typically, the Psalms have a pattern of finishing on a hopeful note. There’s a recognition that while all seems lost, God is still present therefore hope can be found. Psalm 88 bucks the trend. “Darkness is my closest friend,” is not an encouraging way to end. (Psalm 88:18b)
But sometimes life is like this. There are seasons when things don’t go well. There are times of deep discouragement. In others, the physical toll of illness drains a person to the point of despair. God can seem to be very far off in those moments. His presence removed.
I often perceive that a “fix” is evidence of God’s presence. If things go well, He’s there. I know I’m wrong.
God is always present. His presence is not proof that things are going well. Frequently, when things are going well, I completely overlook the evidence of His presence with me. When I’m desperate, He is still there, even though He seems hard to find.
The author of the Psalm does not give up praying to God. Rather, his desperation sends him before God’s throne day and night. In my desperation, I am inclined to give up. My heart gets quickly frustrated by the perception of God’s lack of response. Why pray if nothing changes? I want an answer now. I don’t want to wait. I’m not really interested in the pain of character transformation and shaping. I’d like to learn the lesson, deal with the issue, move on. The faster the better. But the refinement and growth of my soul is a slow process. If I truly learned the lessons God has for me, He would not need to use the gift of His repetition in my life.
Simultaneously, just because I perceive God to be silent does not mean that He is. My God is constantly revealing Himself. His Word reveals His character. Nature speaks to His majesty and creativity. The people around me attest to His love and care. The songs I wake up with each day speak to His personal knowledge of me. He uses other people in my life to remind me of His faithfulness and gentleness. My God isn’t silent.
God refuses to scream at me, demanding my attention! Because He has given me free will, He knows that I will often choose the simple and the expedient over the long term and the arduous. He lets me make those choices. He knows I will experience the consequences of it all. But, in His love, mercy and grace He continues to whisper to my soul, gently drawing me to Himself. With Him there is a stillness. A peace. Hope. Love. It’s easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of life. It’s simple to miss when I am downcast in heart. But it’s there, begging me to come, sit awhile, rest with Him.
Sometimes “darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:18b) But God is present. He cannot abandon – it’s not in His character. I take comfort in the fact that God has never been scared off by what I think or feel. He is close even when it doesn’t feel like it.