The colors and smells of fall have arrived, even here in southern California. Red, yellow, gold and peach-colored roses, fresh from my garden, are tucked into a round pumpkin. Homemade pumpkin bread, smelling of cinnamon and ginger is fresh from the oven and ready to be tucked into our mouths.
Thanksgiving is almost here.
Sometimes, though, we have trouble entering into the full spirit of Thanksgiving. Perhaps we’ve experienced a loss recently, as my friend, Jan, did when her mother died. Or, someone we love may have inoperable cancer. Maybe one of our children is not following the Lord. And we feel sad, and even a bit ungrateful as Thanksgiving approaches.
At times we may even feel God has forgotten us.
Where is God?
Why can’t I sense God’s presence?
Have you forgotten me, O Lord?
How long will my enemies triumph?
King David felt this way once. He felt despair and desolation and it seemed like it would last forever! In Psalm 13, he kept saying, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”
Some scholars think that David was physically sick when he wrote this psalm, and that he was deeply discouraged because he hadn’t heard from God. Clearly some situation which was unchanged was causing him sorrow.
He admitted to God that he was wrestling with his thoughts, and feeling great sorrow every day. And he wanted it to end!
We get to these places, too. We may have prayed for healing from a sickness and are no better. We prayed earnestly for a sister to recover from cancer, but she continues to get worse. Our son or daughter is not seeking God as we have asked and we find that God is distant—where is He? How long will it be until He answers my prayer?
What did David do to solve the dilemma of waiting for God? He continued to pray to God and to put his hope in Him. David knew that he himself couldn’t solve the problem. If he was physically ill, he knew he would die without God’s help. He knew that the answer lay with continuing to seek God in prayer. So he called out to God in verse 3, “Look on me and answer me, O Lord, my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.”
Even though David couldn’t sense God and didn’t know where God was, David didn’t turn his back on God. He turned toward God and put his full confidence in Him. He said, “I have this enemy, this sickness and sadness, and You are distant, O God, but I will put my trust in you anyway! I’m not going to give in to my enemies! They are not going to win! I’m going to put my trust in You; You are my Lord and my God. Look on me and answer me. I have no one else to turn to and I’m going to choose You and not listen to the taunts of my enemies.”
And so he prayed. He poured out his heart to God. He told God that if he was ever going to see light in his desolation, God would have to shine that light. And he wanted God to shine that light so that David’s enemies would not think they had triumphed over him! He wanted God to answer him so he could triumph over his enemies! (verses 3 & 4)
When we are ill or have a continuing problem that God doesn’t seem to hear and we think He has forgotten us, we can choose to give in to that. We can say, “I’m just not going to pray anymore, because how long has it been since God answered me? I give up.”
We can choose to do that.
And then our enemies win.
we can choose to follow David’s example and say, “I’m not going to give in to my enemies! I’m going to put my trust in God and not let my enemies win. I’m going to keep on praying!”
We can keep on praying for healing, for ourselves or for others. We can keep on praying that our son or daughter will follow the Lord. If God doesn’t answer and it seems so long, we can choose to keep on! And not give up! And not let our enemies win!
As David continued to pray, his spirit did an about-face. He said, “As for me, I’m putting my trust in God’s unfailing love! (verse 5) I’m leaving these enemies, these doubts, this uncertainty about why You don’t answer, God, and I’m just putting my trust in You. I’m putting my confidence in Your unfailing covenant love! You made a covenant with Israel—You promised Your love to them, to me, and You, not my enemies, are the truth and the way and I’m going to follow You! I’m going to rejoice in the salvation You are bringing me!”
And so, we must, as King David did, turn toward God—even if we think He has forgotten us—and we must continue to trust in God’s unfailing love.
That’s what trust is, that’s what faith is. It’s walking toward God when there is no evidence. Otherwise, why would we need to trust Him?
And then we come to this marvelous verse that ends the Psalm, verse 6. David, looking toward a future that has not yet changed, but speaking as though it has, says, “I’m going to sing a song of praise to God for He has dealt bountifully with me.”
David chooses to praise God, even this God who seemed to have forgotten him, because David focuses on the truth—GOD HAS NOT FORGOTTEN HIM. No, indeed, looking ahead as though it has happened, David says that not only has God not only not forgotten him, God has dealt bountifully with him! God has been better to him than he could have ever hoped. God has been more generous with him than he even asked for. God has been lavish with him.
And so with us.
When I am tempted to stop praying for my son or daughter who doesn’t follow the Lord, I can follow the example in this Psalm. I can by faith say, “Wait a minute. This is God we are talking about. He can’t forget me! He has me engraved on the palms of His hands! He sent His precious Son, Jesus, to die for my sins so I could be forgiven! He’s preparing a place for me in heaven. He can’t have forgotten me. It’s not possible! He has promised to love me. He loves the whole world! “
So, by faith I can choose the truth. God has not forgotten me. Instead of forgetting, He is dealing bountifully with me. He is dealing lavishly with me. He is treating me with deep love and provision, far more than I deserve or could ever expect.
I can choose to look to the future, and I can say, “Oh, how good God has been to me. He’s been even better than I imagined. He’s been not just good, He’s been bountiful.”
And for you, God does the same. You pray for healing from the cancer, but if He doesn’t heal in this life, you can still say that God has dealt bountifully with you. After all, we have salvation! We have eternity! We have so much to rejoice in with those things.
“Lord, You are good. We turn from our own way, and our complaining, and our wrong thinking that you don’t hear us, and we look at You. We gaze at who You are—Your unfailing love for us, Your salvation. We know that You will be good to us. We say, by faith, O Lord, that we give You praise, for You have dealt bountifully with us and You will continue to do so.”