A Word for Today | Psalm 44
Psalm 44 is famous for its sense that God has abandoned his people by subjecting them to great trial. “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?” it asks (Ps. 44:23). “Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (Ps. 44:24). Events had made the author think that God had gone off the job, so that something like our pandemic (or likely worse) had befallen the people.
Most people would answer that God is not involved in the details of our lives or has no control over things like the worldwide spread of deadly virus. But the psalmist knew better. Whatever had happened to Israel, he knew that God had willed it: “You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Ps. 44:11).
We do not know why God subjected his people to the trials of Psalm 44, just as we do not know God’s purpose in the Coronavirus. But we do know God. And for this reason, believing in God’s sovereignty over frightening events is a recipe for hope, not gloom. James Boice writes:
“The realization that God is in control is both the proper way to approach such problems and the only possible way to find a solution to them. The secularist has nowhere to turn. Not only does not have an answer, he does not even have a way of finding one.”
James M. Boice
How terrifying it would be if the holy, merciful God was not in control of our lives, if instead we were subject only to the pitiless powers that afflict us!
By the end of Psalm 44, the psalmist has not discovered the reason for his trials – much less the mysteries of suffering and evil – but he knew enough to cry out to God “for the sake of your steadfast love” (Ps. 44:26). He knew his life was being shaped by God’s will and for God’s sake, and therefor he appealed to God’s steadfast love. Let us remember to do the same as we pray through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we face each day during this health crisis, anticipating that the news will get worse before it gets better, let us as Christians stand firm in our knowledge that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” (Lam. 3:22). In his anxiety, the psalmist complained, “we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Ps. 44:22). The apostle Paul noted that this statement is true about life in this world. But he pointed out that for Christians – for whom Jesus died and rose again as our Savior – our faith in Jesus means we have confidence both for today and forever: “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).