when God is hard on us

You have rejected us, O God, and broken our defenses.
You have been angry with us; now restore us to your favor.

You have shaken our land and split it open.
Seal the cracks, for the land trembles.

You have been very hard on us,
making us drink wine that sent us reeling.

But you have raised a banner for those who fear you—
a rallying point in the face of attack.     

Now rescue your beloved people.
Answer and save us by your power.

Psalm 60:1-5

 

Sometimes we aren’t who we thought we were. Sometimes circumstances reveal weaknesses we thought were gone.

 

Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned them. Sometimes all our best efforts fall far short of what we knew could be.

 

Sometimes people aren’t what we wanted them to be. Sometimes tragedies befall and life feels unfair.

 

There is a tendency—when we see disappointing things within ourselves, or failures we keep returning after; when people keep failing us, or plans just don’t come together; anytime that pain interrupts our pursuit of the happy and the easy—there is a tendency. We tend to assume that God forgot or just didn’t come through; tend to cry foul, to claim that God is being unfair. After all, if God is really good, how could so much difficulty be allowed?

 

There are all sorts of theological issues with this way of thinking, not least of which is our presumption that somehow we have a full understanding of what is best and what is right and what is good. I love the way Psalm 60 opens up, because it reminds that sometimes the very things we don’t want—the difficulties we face—are orchestrated by God to bring about something within us.

 

We make a grave mistake when we categorize all things we consider unpleasant or undesirable as evil. This is not to say that so much evil doesn’t exist in our world. It does. And it’s not to say that we should pretend to enjoy hardships or falsely proclaim happiness at the times when God is, as verse 3 says, “very hard on us.” We should, however, recognize, that sometimes God shakes the land. Sometimes God does break us apart, cause us to tremble, and brings down our defenses.

 

 Sometimes God is very hard on us.

 

God is raising a banner—a rallying point—and his name is Jesus. God wants to rescue us from ourselves, from our sin, from this world, from our plans and agendas and he has no problem bringing to rubble anything that causes us to lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the only saving there is for us. He won’t hesitate to bring to light anything—be it ever so painful or embarrassing—that will remind us of our need for his grace.

 

If we never feel the attack we lose sight of the rescuer and the rallying point. If we never feel the pressure we easily convince ourselves that we’ve “got this” and can handle that. Thankfully, God has no problem with shaking the walls and ensuring we feel the attacks so we come running back to him. So we cry out for him to save and him to restore. 

 

God has at times been hard on us. And he will be again–for our own good. Thankfully, God has also raised the banner and his name is Jesus.

 

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As a personal aside, I would greatly appreciate your prayers over the next nine days. I will be leaving tomorrow morning for England, where I will spend those nine days with Church planters seeking to bring the gospel of Jesus to England. In the last 250 years Europe is the only part of the world that has seen Christianity decrease. They desperately need the gospel there and I will be spending time with those who’ve been called by God to till the hard soil. My purpose is to learn from them, to encourage them, and simply to better understand how we can support them. It’s a great privilege for me to be a part of this and I would so appreciate knowing that you are praying.

 

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