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Posts tagged ‘mystery’

When My Companions Are Darkness And Silence From God

Editor’s Note:  Silence is deafening and darkness is uncomfortable.  We long for the feeling of God’s close presence, security, and enough light and wisdom to know how to navigate the course of life we are on.  The below article gives more insight about the reality of God’s loving work in our lives even when we can’t sense His presence.

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at Counseling Solutions

When your companion is darkness rather than light and your circumstances are overwhelming you in a season of acute need, there is no more of an important time in life for God to reveal Himself to you.

But sometimes your answer to that kind of praying is more darkness. This is the story of the Psalmist in Psalm 88. This Psalm, unlike others, does not end with the God of victory breaking through to save the day. According to the Hebrew rendering of the text, the last word of the Psalm is the word “darkness.”

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

This Psalm helps us understand something about darkness and pain like no other Psalm. This is a messy, chaotic, and confusing Psalm that was intentionally left in the sacred writ. This is an anti-American Psalm, in that the American culture has a generally weak understanding of suffering in a fallen world. The overriding implication of this Psalm is that God may choose to leave you in darkness for a season. But that does not mean that the darkness you are experiencing is void of God’s presence or awareness. You just can’t see Him in the dark. Isn’t this what our old friend Job said:

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. – Job 23:8-10 (ESV)

God is There

This text does not teach that God is away, distant or disinterested in the sufferer. We cannot say that He was not aware of what was going on because He did inspire the chapter to be written. The fact that God included this Psalm in His Word tells us that He knows and understands what is going on in our hearts and lives, even when we are unsure if God is real and relevant in our lives.

God is there and through this Psalm He is teaching us something about life. Yes, it is possible for a Christian to go through dark times is what our friend is describing in Psalm 88. There are times when our lives take twists and turns that are much different than what we read in Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. – Psalm 40:1-2 (ESV)

But in this Psalm, the person cries to God and He “does not” hear; He has prayed and prayed and prayed and God is not listening, so it seems. God is not only silent, but He has hidden his face from the crier. It is one thing to be rejected by man, but to feel rejected by God is the most desperate of all life’s circumstances. When my only friend is the darkness I experience, the question becomes,

Can this really be true that a believer can get to the place where there is no practical help or functional hope? It seems that if God can do all things, then most assuredly He would be able to fix this. Right?

Safety Expectations

Being in a relationship with God does not mean I will escape the problems of life. At one level I know this: becoming old is an obvious example of the potential for suffering. I also get sick. I experience abuse and injustice just like everyone else. I have lost jobs and at other times I have lost friends. Being a Christian does not mean problem-free or smooth sailing.

The tension that I can create in my soul is when I think that God works in my salvation and my sanctification identically. The God of my salvation is the conquering Victor who secured me for eternity. In order for Him to do this, He had to crush His Son. This is the Gospel.

The God of my sanctification is a different kind of conquering Friend. It is not just what God is doing for me, but it is also what He is doing in me and through me. The person He is crushing through my sanctification is me. Once He secured my salvation, through the death of His Son on the cross, He began a process of sanctification: He is progressively mortifying (making dead) me for a greater usefulness in His world.

Christ’s death led to victory. My “death” leads to victory. The more I can understand and apply this Gospel truth to my life, the more I can not only experience and love the One who died for me, but I can find a victory that is more significant than these temporary terrestrial comforts. Sadly at times I will try to smuggle into my progressive sanctification this idea of “safety expectations” as though I will go through life unscathed.

When you are in your darkness, what do you hear God whispering over the noise of your darkness?

  1. Do you really believe that God is there?
  2. Do you really believe that God is listening?
  3. Do you really believe that God cares for you?
  4. Do you really believe God?

Your expectations have a lot to do with what happens to you. – Tim Keller


Based on: The Doctrine of Divine Abandonment by John MacArthur – Matthew 24-28 Commentary

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

A second miracle occurred at about the ninth hour, or three o’clock in the afternoon, through an inexplicable event that might be called sovereign departure, as somehow God was separated from God.

At that time Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” As Matthew explains, the Hebrew Eli (Mark uses the Aramaic form, “Eloi,” 15:34) means, My God, and lama sabachthani means, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?

Because Jesus was quoting the well-known Psalm 22, there could have been little doubt in the minds of those who were standing there as to what Jesus was saying. They had been taunting Him with His claim to be God’s Son (v. 43), and an appeal for divine help would have been expected. Their saying, “This man is calling for Elijah,” was not conjecture about what He said but was simply an extension of their cruel, cynical mockery.

In this unique and strange miracle, Jesus was crying out in anguish because of the separation He now experienced from His heavenly Father for the first and only time in all of eternity. It is the only time of which we have record that Jesus did not address God as Father. Because the Son had taken sin upon Himself, the Father turned His back. That mystery is so great and imponderable that it is not surprising that Martin Luther is said to have gone into seclusion for a long time trying to understand it and came away as confused as when he began. In some way and by some means, in the secrets of divine sovereignty and omnipotence, the God-Man was separated from God for a brief time at Calvary, as the furious wrath of the Father was poured out on the sinless Son, who in matchless grace became sin for those who believe in Him.

Habakkuk declared of God, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13). God turned His back when Jesus was on the cross because He could not look upon sin, even-or perhaps especially-in His own Son. Just as Jesus loudly lamented, God the Father had indeed forsaken Him.

Jesus did not die as a martyr to a righteous cause or simply as an innocent man wrongly accused and condemned. Nor, as some suggest, did He die as a heroic gesture against man’s inhumanity to man. The Father could have looked favorably on such selfless deaths as those. But because Jesus died as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world, the righteous heavenly Father had to judge Him fully according to that sin.

The Father forsook the Son because the Son took upon Himself “our transgressions, … our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Jesus “was delivered up because of our transgression” (Rom. 4:25) and “died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). He “who knew no sin [became] sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21) and became “a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Pet. 2:24), “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust” (1 Pet. 3:18), and became “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus Christ not only bore man’s sin but actually became sin on man’s behalf, in order that those who believe in Him might be saved from the penalty of their sin. Jesus came to teach men perfectly about God and to be a perfect example of God’s holiness and righteousness. But, as He Himself declared, the supreme reason for His coming to earth was not to teach or to be an example but “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

When Christ was forsaken by the Father, their separation was not one of nature, essence, or substance. Christ did not in any sense or degree cease to exist as God or as a member of the Trinity. He did not cease to be the Son, any more than a child who sins severely against his human father ceases to be his child. But Jesus did for a while cease to know the intimacy of fellowship with His heavenly Father, just as a disobedient child ceases for a while to have intimate, normal, loving fellowship with his human father.

By the incarnation itself there already had been a partial separation. Because Jesus had been separated from His divine glory and from face-to-face communication with the Father, refusing to hold on to those divine privileges for His own sake (Phil 2:6), He prayed to the Father in the presence of His disciples, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5). At the cross His separation from the Father became immeasurably more profound than the humbling incarnation during the thirty-three years of His earthly life.

As already mentioned, the mystery of that separation is far too deep even for the most mature believer to fathom. But God has revealed the basic truth of it for us to accept and to understand to the limit of our ability under the illumination of His Spirit. And nowhere in Scripture can we behold the reality of Jesus’ sacrificial death and the anguish of His separation from His Father more clearly and penetratingly than in His suffering on the cross because of sin. In the midst of being willingly engulfed in our sins and the sins of all men of all time, He writhed in anguish not from the lacerations on His back or the thorns that still pierced His head or the nails that held Him to the cross but from the incomparably painful loss of fellowship with His heavenly Father that His becoming sin for us had brought.

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