Yesterday I was reading Psalm 103, especially verses 1-8. The psalm begins with praises to God: "Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart ,I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
In verse 3, the praises shift and become a litany of all of the reasons we praise God: “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”
Its in this litany of reasons that I started to ask questions. Let me explain why. But first, an affirmation: I have experienced so clearly in my life the forgiveness of sins that the Psalmist is talking about. I have every confidence in that. In many ways that’s a faith statement, but in many other significant ways that’s also a statement based on reality. The guilt of those sins is gone. I can feel it and I know it. The weight of them is gone and for that alone, I would praise God from now until the end of my days.
But … the rest of this litany gives me pause. “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” Let’s be honest. We know God doesn’t always heal. So what do we do when God doesn’t heal diseases? What do we say to a family when sickness and disease linger?
What about those times when we aren’t rescued from trouble? (That word redeemed in verse 4 could just as easily get translated as rescued.)
As Followers of God, what do we say about those times when there is little or no love and compassion?
What about those times when we aren’t satisfied (filled with good things) or when our youth is not renewed?
When I’m struggling with anything – sickness, depression, finances, work, relationships; its hard to rely on platitudes. “Trust God.” “It’s God’s Will.” “It will all work out.” “God’s in control.” Even if those things are true, they sound trite and dismissive. They don’t help. They sound like the person saying them is trying to keep their distance because their afraid something I have will rub off. Like I’m contagious.
When people have tough questions you better have tough answers – answers that are tough enough to hold up under pressure.
What about those times when God doesn’t heal? When we aren’t rescued from trouble? The Psalmist says: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”
What about days devoid of love, compassion and satisfaction? When renewal and hope seem far off? The Psalmist says: “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.”
Sometimes rescue simply means drawing close. It means, “I’m here with you.” And you can’t love from a distance; not in a crisis. When things get tough for someone you love and you’re far away, your first instinct is to get to them. You want to close the distance. Love draws close. That’s what God does. God draws close. God loves.
So, the answer to the question: “What do we do when God doesn’t come to the rescue?” really depends on what kind of rescue you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a God who will come to save you from pain, loss, death, disease, misery and suffering – I have to be honest and tell you I’m not going to be much help. BUT, if you’re looking for a God who will draw close to you in those very times and love you like no other can – I know just where to look for that kind of rescue.