Sometimes God’s love is unbearable. I remember coming to that conclusion during a season of life in which it seemed we survived one round of intense hardship only to face the next. Every task we put our hands to failed miserably; everyone we prayed for ended up in a worse state than before; the ratio of our dead children to those still living was 2 to 1; each month left our bank account further in the red; and the only thing we could really count on is that my next major illness would strike while my husband was away on an important ministry trip. Where was God in all this?
I was faced with a conundrum. The Scriptures depict Him so clearly as the God who sovereignly reigns over every detail of life, but if I were to really believe that, it would mean that His was the hand obstructing my path and inflicting my pain. How could I go for comfort to the very hand that was wounding me? I had nowhere else to go. But why was He being so hard on me? I wasn’t living with unconfessed sin. I wasn’t pursuing my own selfish interests. My whole life was oriented around bringing His glory among the nations. Didn’t He want me to succeed?
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Endure hardship as disipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-8, 10-11
As it often does, the book of Hebrews spoke directly to my questions: “… the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons”(12:6–7). In the past this passage had comforted me, showing me the value of the hardships I was facing and reminding me that God was lovingly using them for my good. But this time it was too much. I had willingly endured so much hardship at His hands that I just couldn’t take any more. I knew that out of His great love for me, He was putting me through intensive training so that I could share in His holiness. But frankly, I just couldn’t handle any more of this kind of love. It had worn me out and broken me down. I wanted Him to leave me alone, to go love on someone else for a little while. But how could I actually say that to God?
David went through similar seasons in his own life. He didn’t hesitate to express his sentiments directly to God, and God in turn recorded them in His Word.
But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you …
I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
You rebuke and discipline men for their sin …
Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more.
Psalm 39:7, 9–11, 13
God includes such disrespectfully raw prayers in the Bible to give us permission to express to Him the true cries of our heart.
That’s how the Psalm ends. Not very emotionally tidy or theologically comfortable. When the composers of the Genevan Psalter put this psalm to music, they just couldn’t leave it off there. Their solution was to add on the first few lines of the next psalm so that we wouldn’t be left hanging in the depths of despair. But God includes such disrespectfully raw prayers in the Bible to give us permission to express to Him the true cries of our heart. Forced resolution, fake smiles, empty platitudes just won’t cut it. Sometimes we need to acknowledge our despair to Him and sit with the dilemma. So I will…
(until next time.)