8 Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
I’ve been learning over and over again that God has things to teach us that we don’t want to hear. We will always have questions about hell and death and suffering until that day when we know for sure. But until then, we have to rely on what God has given us, and sometimes it isn’t as pretty as we think.
Awful, awful things happen. And God knows they will. And honestly, we do too.
This piece of Psalm 66 sums it up pretty well. It’s unnerving how similar it is to my life - and yours too.
There’s just this cycle of life. Blessings flow, and it’s so easy to praise God. The natural response to the giving of gifts is gratitude. But it seems like there’s always a season of gratitude, and then a season of garbage.
A season that, frankly, sucks. (like valentine’s day.) (just kidding.)
And then, if we take this psalm literally, we are told that God is allowing that season to come our way. In some instances, He’s the One who did the bringing us to prison, He’s the One who did the laying of these burdens on our backs. They came from Him.
And I am a strong believer that there is always a purpose, that God will always use those sufferings for the betterment of us, that we cannot grow without those seasons. But by no means does that make them easier. By no means does that eliminate our questions and anger and pain. Sometimes that answer just doesn’t suffice.
Now please please please don’t misunderstand and think that God ever wanted it this way. Of course He didn’t. But we screwed that up. We broke the world. We broke each other. And now we face the pain and struggle that follow.
But then, with the always indescribable grace of God, at that last brief moment, He brings us into abundance.
There are so many things we will just never get through our tiny, insignificant human minds. The reasoning behind every instance of suffering is one of them. Maybe God provides some, and maybe some are just natural consequences of how broken we are. Or maybe it’s none of that.
But this psalm isn’t a debate. It doesn’t ask why. It doesn’t even (in my opinion) complain. It goes through a cycle that parallels our own stories.
We praise God because we know life is good.
Then life gets hard. It doesn’t seem quite as good as it used to.
Then He brings us out.
Whatever the purpose of that middle, hard, burdening, terrible, tear-filled, disgusting time may be, it is always followed by an exodus. A liberation. A revival.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and I am not Catholic, but I certainly understand the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. He lived a life that changed so many others (or all others, some would say). He suffered. He suffered hard. For us, I might add. And then He rose from the dead.
And He has called us all to do the same. It’s a beautiful thing. If you really want to live like Jesus, well then, in this way, you already are.
So take it like He did.
We live, and then we suffer to the point where all seems lost, and then He lifts us back up. He doesn’t leave us.
That’s not the story of Jesus, and that’s not our story.
Our story is one of a conquered grave; of death that cannot hold us. Hallelujah.