Several years ago, I experienced an annoying side effect which had arisen related to earlier prostate cancer therapy. The side effect had been “cured” by a specific series of treatments but now it had reared its troublesome head again. One recent Sunday, it was especially troublesome. There are potential treatments for this condition but my excellent Johns Hopkins urologist told me that living with the condition is probably better than medically trying to make everything perfectly normal. “Perfection is the enemy of good”, he stated. So I spent the Sunday dejected and asking God why He had allowed this unwelcome side effect to arise again when it had been so well controlled four years earlier. In the course of a disease, when these disappointments happen, my mind and emotions sink into a mild depression and some degree of anger all of which last 2-3 days after which I acknowledge the situation and resolve to carry on my life as normally as I possibly can.
A day or two later, I read a devotional from Our Daily Bread, April 20, 2020. In Psalm 42, we gain a window into the human spirit as it engages in a profound emotional struggle often related to our disease state. The author of the Psalm copes with his personal crisis by first acknowledging his desperate need of God. I saw a clear picture of myself in this Psalm. The writer of Psalm 42 begins by acknowledging that he needs divine help in his condition by writing in verses 1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Then he outlines his problem. In his predicament, the Psalmist writes “when can I go and meet with God?” It is as if he is asking “where are you God in all of this?” While my condition was not painful, the writer, like myself, was distraught and disappointed, writing in verse 3 “my tears have been my food day and night.”
Then the Psalmist recalls better days when all was under control and he was living a peaceful life. I could relate to the following “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God (my church) under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.” Even though I was experiencing my problem on a Sunday, I was definitely not filled with joy and praise. Instead, like the writer in verse 5, I was saying “my soul, why are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” Looking back on God’s unfailing goodness to him in the past, the Psalmist challenges himself: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” But then, he comes up with the solution. Instead. . . “Put your hope in God.”
For me, one day later, the dawn broke, bright and fair. I could express my hope as the Psalmist wrote in verse 5 ” Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” In our spiritual and medical struggles, our emotions must be acknowledged. It’s healthy to be completely honest before God, and it’s vital to keep our focus on Him in our emotional anguish. The Psalms were written by people like David who were at times overwhelmed with despair and confusion yet they exhibited a faith-filled confidence in God’s great love, His presence and faithfulness. That’s why we so readily identify with the psalms.
When I look into the sky on a clear night, I can see the stars like the Big Dipper, perfectly aligned in a pattern even though they are millions of light years away. But then, I realized that if I were actually closer to those stars, they would not appear to be so clearly aligned in a pattern. Yet from my distant perspective, they looked carefully configured in the heavens. At that moment, I realized that when I am too close to the negative events in my life and see only my dire situation, I don’t see what God sees. In His big picture, everything is in perfect alignment. His ways are beyond our limited ability to understand or visualize. Yet the One who holds all things together in the heavens and on earth is intimately and lovingly involved with every detail of our lives. Therefore, we “hope in God for we will yet praise him, our Savior and our God.”
If you are unsure of your own personal relationship with this God to whom this post refers, see the following.