I had a party the other night. You should have been there. Really, it was spectacular–deflated balloons, tattered streamers, clumpy confetti, flat soda. It was probably the most extravagant pity party in the history of pity parties.
I didn’t mention it was a pity party? Well, now you know. I was celebrating a late night after a long day after a long week after a long month after a long year . . . And you know how it goes, it all funnels down to that lowest of low moments when you sit down in the darkness–if only for a minute–and feel sorry for yourself.
I even broke out what children’s book authors Jonathan Templeton and Lorena Albright López comically (but oh so truly) call the whine-a-phone, that the Israelites played quite often during their wilderness wanderings.
I played a one-woman concert, and oh, it was pitiful. It brought me to tears.
I journaled about the day and asked God to help me turn my thoughts around (which He did), and by the time I finished writing I wasn’t feeling a ton better but I knew I was on the right track out of the darkness.
I opened my Bible to my psalm for the night, and it was Psalm 88. The New King James version titles it “A Prayer for Help in Despondency,” and as I started reading, I found myself agreeing and praying along with the psalmist: “O LORD, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You” (vs. 1). My soul certainly was full of troubles (vs. 3), and in many ways I felt like a woman with no strength (vs. 4).
But the truth that reached out of the page and struck me in the center of my needy heart came from verse 6. I finished reading the psalm, then came back to this verse to let it resonate some more:
You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths.
It would be easy to think, Thanks a lot, God. Real encouraging. Like I needed another reminder of how low I feel right now.
But, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, those weren’t the thoughts that crossed my mind. Instead, God spoke to me a world of comfort from the first four words: “You have laid me.”
I read the psalm in Spanish, where the word for “laid” is the same word used for “put.” The image I saw in my mind was that of hands gently laying me down. The way someone might place an injured baby bird in a padded box.
Not dropped, carelessly. Not thrown, cruelly. Not left to slip and slide haphazardly.
Laid. With love.
Placed. With intention.
Put. For a purpose.
I may be in a low place, in a dark place, in a narrow place, but I’m here because God put me here. Because my loving Father has ordained this as part of His good plan for my life. Because sovereign God is working for His glory, and this pit is just a stop on the journey of sanctification.
What are the odds–of course, there are no odds in Christianity–that the very next day I should see this quotation shared by a friend on social media:
Whatever is the crook in your lot, it is of God’s making; and therefore you may look upon it kindly. Since it is your Father has made it for you, question not but there is a favorable design in it towards you.Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot
In other words, when you have a wrench in your works, when there’s affliction in your life, when it’s not smooth sailing, it’s the work of God. And God knows what He’s doing.
For I know, whate’er befall me,Rich Mullins, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”
Jesus doeth all things well.
God never moves without purpose or planRon Hamilton, “Rejoice in the Lord”
When trying His servant and molding a man.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measuretransl. Andrew l. Skoog, “Day by Day”
Gives unto each day what He deems best–
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Job himself said after he lost his livelihood, his possessions, his children, and finally his own health, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).
In the rest of this psalm, the writer includes phrases like “You have afflicted me with all Your waves” (vs. 7) and “I suffer Your terrors” (vs. 15) and “Loved one and friend You have put far from me” (vs. 18).
The psalmist clearly attributes his suffering to God, whether the cause is chastisement, growth, or something else. So can we, if we return to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. God is the one behind our suffering.
Not that we should raise our fists and blame Him, curse Him, blaspheme Him, and hate Him.
No, we should thank Him.
Thank Him for being the one to orchestrate (or at least allow) our suffering?
Yes. Because what is the alternative? Suffering that originates, truly originates, from Satan. From other humans. From those who have evil intentions and cruel hearts and the desire to see us hurt and destroyed.
God’s hands may have laid you in the pit you’re in right now, but His hands are good. His hands are loving. And His hands are still around you.
I’m reminded of what David said in response to God in II Samuel 24. David had sinned by ordering a census of Israel, and God gave him a choice of punishment: seven years of famine, three months of defeat to Israel’s enemies, or three days of plague from the Lord.
David said, “Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (vs. 14).
We don’t have to pray this because we ARE in the hand of the Lord. And His mercies ARE great (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Aren’t you thankful?
The next time you want to blame God for your suffering, don’t. Instead, come to this psalm, these songs, other passages of Scripture to remind yourself that the hand of the Lord is in your chronic illness. Thank Him for being not just behind your suffering but also right beside you in it.