Psalm 44 starts out very encouraging but after verse 8 takes an awkward turn. Maybe reading this psalm will help you identify with some frustration you have with God. Maybe you feel exactly the way the sons of Korah did when they wrote this psalm. Maybe you are in that place right now. This is a constant question that people who do not believe and trust in the goodness of God always ask. This is a question that those who do believe are confronted with occasionally. “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
That question is misdirected and clearly misinformed. It assumes that because we are “good” that we “deserve” only “good things”. In fact, this very psalm echoes this sentiment. “We recognize and worship you, Lord, yet you lead us to torment and slaughter. What gives?” In our human thinking we see this as unwarranted, unfair, and unjust. Yet, God allows only that which is good for us to happen to us. The problem we constantly face is that we don’t understand that which is truly good for us.
It’s easy to worship God when we are experiencing victory, is it not? When things are going well we can smile and worship God in our happiness and abundance. What about when tragedy befalls us? What about when we are seemingly losing the battle? What about when someone offends us or does something against us? Does He stop loving us in those moments? Is His care for us aloof? Has He forgotten about us? Is He suddenly angry at us for something we might not even realize we did? The answer is a resounding NO. The truth is that God allows these things to happen so we can grow closer to God. THIS is why it is for our own good. If you don’t agree, take a moment to reflect upon James 1:
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
God wants us to be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. This is why your persecution is for your own good! Maybe this is a little difficult to accept, so let’s look at it a different way. Think about someone who wants to form a healthier body for themselves. Part of the process is exercise. Without getting into the intricate mechanics of biochemistry and kinesiology, I think we can all recognize that in order to improve in a certain area, you cannot simply maintain where you are at.
If you are a runner, you know you cannot continually “coast” at the same pace or else you will not improve at all. Either you have to run faster or longer. If you run 1 mile every day for 15 minutes and never change your workout, you will not see any progress. You have to push yourself beyond your body’s comfort zone to see change. If you lift weights, you know that eventually you have to change how much weight you are lifting or how many times you lift it. If you lift 50 pounds 10 times for 3 sets every time you go into the gym, you are not improving. You have to push yourself to lift more weight or more repetitions in order to improve your muscular strength.
Now let us return to the thought of our spiritual life. If you maintain the status quo all the time, you are not growing. When I played high school football and our coach measured our improvement for weight lifting, running, etc. he would indicate if our most recent “test” was an improvement or if we went backwards. There was never a “break even”. The concept was that if we had stalled in an area and remained the same, we were considered as going backwards. If there is no forward movement, there is backsliding. God creates opportunities for us to constantly improve in our relationship with Him because it is for our own good. If we reread Psalm 44, we see how Israel praised God and gave Him credit for their victories. They relied upon Him to win and worshipped Him when they experienced victory. They must (and so should we) remember, however, that the battle belongs to the Lord and He has every right to not win it if He deems necessary! The truth is while the physical battle rages and the world focuses on those results, God’s battle is focused on His Kingdom and the connectedness of our hearts with Him. Remember what Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
While Israel was focusing on their physical battles, God was preparing them for spiritual battles. As the sons of Korah wrote about not trusting in their own bow or sword and trusting in the Lord, at the same time they were doubting God’s goodness and wondering why these things were no longer working for them. They recognized His provision in strength and victory over their physical enemies but had yet to recognize their spiritual enemies. To their benefit, they continued to cry out to Him instead of rely on these things. They may have doubted and questioned but grew stronger in their reliance upon God through it all and Israel still remains today!
How do you respond to persecution? What battles do you seem to be losing today? How is God using your afflictions to grow closer to Him?