Daily Riches: When God Seems Absent (Philip Yancey)

Job teaches …that we need faith at the precise moment when it seems impossible. When tragedy strikes, we too will be trapped in a limited point of view. Like Job, we will be tempted to blame God and see him as the enemy. Job asked God poignantly, ‘Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands?’ (10:3). The view behind the curtain in chapters 1—2 reveals that Job was being exalted, not spurned. God was letting his own reputation ride on the response of a single human being. At the time when Job felt most abandoned, at that very time God was giving him personal, almost microscopic scrutiny. God seemed absent; in one sense God had never been more present. I hesitate to write this because it is a hard truth, one I do not want to acknowledge: Job convinces me that God cares more about our faith than our pleasure. That statement does not fit with the cloying, teddy-bear image of God often presented by Christians. I may not arrive at such a conclusion if Job stood alone, but think back to the trials some of God’s favorite people have undergone. …Even the Son of God on earth felt a sense of being abandoned by God. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus went through a trial by ordeal to ‘know what was in his heart.’ Later, in a far more severe trial, Jesus cried out on the cross (quoting Psalm 22), ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ Like Job, he continued to trust God despite the God-forsaken feeling: ‘Into thy hands I commit my spirit.’ For him too, at the very moment when God seemed most absent, at that moment the Father had never been more present. Paul tells us that on the cross God was ‘in Christ … reconciling the world to himself.'” Philip Yancey
“Though he slay me,
yet will I trust him.”
Job 13:15
.

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What is your usual response when you feel forgotten or abandoned by God?
  • Does it make sense that God would care more about your growth in faith than your comfort?
  • Have you determined like Job did that you will commit yourself into the “hands” of God no matter what may come?

Abba, I will never not trust you.

For More: The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: The Transformational Power of the Psalms (Philip Yancey, Anatoly Shcharansky, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Walter Brueggemann)

“In 1977, at the height of the Cold War, Anatoly Shcharansky, a brilliant young mathematician and chess player, was arrested by the KGB for his repeated attempts to emigrate to Israel. He spent thirteen years inside the Soviet Gulag. From morning to evening Shcharansky read and studied all 150 psalms (in Hebrew). ‘What does this give me?’ he asked in a letter: ‘Gradually, my feeling of great loss and sorrow changed to one of bright hopes.’ Shcharansky so cherished his book of Psalms, in fact, that when the guards took it away from him, he lay in the snow, refusing to move, until they returned it. During those thirteen years, his wife traveled around the world campaigning for his release. Accepting an honorary degree on his behalf, she told the university audience, ‘In a lonely cell in Chistopol prison, locked alone with the Psalms of David, Anatoly found expression for his innermost feelings in the outpourings of the King of Israel thousands of years ago.'”  Philip Yancey

“The psalms wonderfully solve the problem of a praise-deficient culture by providing the necessary words. We merely need to enter into those words, letting the content of the psalms realign our inner attitudes. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggests that the psalms are God’s language course. Just as infants learn the mother tongue from their parents, Christians can learn the language of prayer from Psalms. …Walter Brueggemann has coined the term ‘psalms of disorientation’ to describe those psalms that express confusion, confession, and doubt. Typically, the writer begins by begging God to rescue him from his desperate straits. He may weave poetic images of how he has been wronged, appeal to God’s sense of justice, even taunt God: ‘What good can I do you when I’m dead? How can I praise you then?’ The very act of venting these feelings allows the authors to attain a better perspective. He reflects on better times, remembers answered prayers of the past, concedes favors that he may have overlooked. By the end of the psalm, he moves toward praise and thanksgiving. He feels heard and cleansed. The psalm, or prayer, works out the transformation.” Yancey

“Holy Scripture is the table of Christ,
from whence we are nourished,
from whence we learn what we should love
and what whence should desire,
to whom we should have our eyes raised.”
Alcuin

Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth
Psalm 119:107

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What do the Psalms mean to you?
  • Have you prayed through them lately?
  • Will you let them teach you what to love, what to desire, and to whom to raise your eyes?

For More: The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey

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I hope you’ll follow and share “Daily Riches.” I appreciate your interest! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

Daily Riches: A Divine Face … Streaked with Tears (Philip Yancey and Tim Keller)

“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” Tim Keller

“Although I cannot learn from [Jesus] why a particular bad thing occurs, I can learn how God feels about it. Jesus gives God a face, and that face is streaked with tears. Whenever I read straight through the Bible, a huge difference between the Old and New Testaments comes to light. In the OT I can find many expressions of doubt and disappointment. Whole books – Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Job – center on the theme. Almost half of the psalms have a dark, brooding tone about them. In striking contrast, the New Testament Epistles contain little of this type of anguish. the problem of pain has surely not gone away: James 1, Romans 5 and 8, the entire book of 1 Peter, and much of Revelation deal with the subject in detail. Nevertheless, nowhere do I find the piercing question Does God Care? I see nothing resembling the accusation of Psalm 77: “Has God forgotten to be merciful?” The reason for the change, I believe, is that Jesus answered that question for the witnesses who wrote the Epistles. In Jesus, God presents a face. Anyone who wonders how God feels about suffering on this groaning planet need only look at that face. James, Peter, and John had followed Jesus long enough for his facial expressions to be permanently etched on their minds. By watching Jesus respond to a hemorrhaging woman, a grieving centurion, a widow’s dead son, an epileptic boy, an old blind man, they learned how God felt about suffering. By no means did Jesus solve the ‘problem of pain’ – he healed only a few in one small corner of the globe – but he did provide an answer to the question, Does God care?  Philip Yancey

“Christ suffered for you” 1 Peter 2:21

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “In Jesus, God presents a face.” How is your understanding of the invisible God shaped by the flesh-and-blood person of Jesus?
  • A big part of the “problem of pain” is feeling forgotten or forsaken by God. Does remembering Jesus strengthen you against such feelings, even in the worst of times? …based on how he was with those who suffered? …based on how he was forsaken?
  • What words of comfort would you offer a suffering friend? What would you refrain from saying?

Abba, what a revelation is Jesus your son. Thank you for him.

For More: The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Make Room for Cursing Saints (Miroslav Volf and Philip Yancey)

“For the followers of the crucified Messiah, the main message of the imprecatory Psalms is this: rage belongs before God – not in the reflectively managed and manicured form of a confession, but as a pre-reflective outburst from the depths of the soul. This is no mere cathartic discharge of pent up aggression before the Almighty who ought to care. Much more significantly, by placing unattended rage before God we place both our unjust enemy and our own vengeful self face to face with a God who loves and does justice. Hidden in the dark chambers of our hearts and nourished by the system of darkness, hate grows and seeks to infest everything with its hellish will to exclusion. In the light of the justice and love of God, however, hate recedes and the seed is planted for the miracle of forgiveness.” Miroslav Volf

“I see the cursing psalms as an important model for how to deal with evil and injustice. I should not try to suppress my reaction of horror and outrage at evil. Nor should I try to take justice in my own hands. Rather, I should deliver those feelings, stripped bare, to God. As the books of Job, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk clearly show, God has a high threshold of tolerance for what is appropriate to say in a prayer. God can ‘handle’ my unsuppressed rage. I may well find that my vindictive feelings need God’s correction – but only by taking those feelings to God will I have that opportunity for correction and healing.” Philip Yancey

“Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.”
Psalm 137:8,9

“Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord …
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart …
See if there is any offensive way in me….
Psalm 139:21-24

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you feel free to bring your “unsuppressed rage” to God? your “pre-reflective outburst?”
  • What good could possibly come from that?
  • How could failing to bring it actually be a bad thing?

Abba, help me to trust that you’re able to handle my rage, and teach me to bring it.

For More: Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”