If you’re like me, the occasion often arises when you need to examine the expiration dates on all those things that have ended up in your refrigerator and pantry. You know what I’m talking about, those items that you bought for the new recipe (that didn’t turn out as hoped) or for the visiting relative (who hasn’t come back). And yes, those leftovers that you were sure would be eaten, and you open the plastic lid to find a strain of penicillin growing (or is it the bacteria that penicillin is supposed to kill?)!
I’m glad God doesn’t pay attention to expiration dates!
What if He looked at us and said, “Girl, you are way past using! That fuzzy green stuff that’s growing around your heart right now is beyond saving! You’re not even fit for the recycle bin!”
There are days when it feels like God has forgotten us, pushed us to the back of His spiritual pantry and left us on the shelf a bit too long. We have the idea that maybe we were once useful, delightful to Him, but our choices, or lack of obedience, or simply the business of being caught up in the daily madness of our life, has made us useless for the kingdom. We feel a bit stinky, a bit moldy.
There are days when we feel like God has forgotten about us, like we were unwanted leftovers.
But that’s just not true!
We forget about important things, but God never forgets about us.
Psalm 77 is the cry from the heart of the psalmist who felt forgotten, past his “use by” date. Listen to his words in verses 1-9:
My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; my voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; in the night my hand was stretched out without weariness, my soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; when I sight, then my spirit grows faint. Selah. You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of long ago. I will remember the song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders. Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
Have you ever felt this way? He is praying, but it feels as though God is not listening. He remembers the “good old days” but he is discouraged, because he feels alone and forgotten. He wonders, “Is God angry with me? Am I past receiving mercy? Will He always reject me?”
Verse 10 is the pivot point for the psalmist, when he realizes the truth, and the tone of the psalm changes from despair to hope.
Then I said, “It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
What does this mean? There are several interpretations of what the psalmist meant by these words. The word “grief” is the Hebrew chalah, which can mean to become weak, sick or diseased, or to become grieved or sorry.
There are two implications. Perhaps the psalmist is physically sick, bearing the burden of infirmity, and so he feels that although God has exhibited power in the past that would heal him, it is his trial, his test in life, for God to withhold that healing. God has ordained the sickness. Or, the fact that God is not acting to rescue him, or he does not see God actively moving in his current circumstances that are troubling to him, is the trial. It is what has made him grieve; he is sorrowful because he has to experience a time in life where he cannot see God’s hand move.
Either way, the answer to his grief is the same: I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
When it seems like He has forgotten me, I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
When I feel like I am past my usefulness, I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
When my body is falling apart, I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
When the doctors don’t know what to do, I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
When I have failed again to obey the God I love, I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
When I recognize God’s hand of discipline in my life, I will remember the deeds of the Lord.
I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God is holy; what god is like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. (verses 12-14)
What particular incident of God’s active power on behalf of His people does the psalmist remember? Verses 16-20 describe the exodus of the Israelites, and God’s miraculous holding back the waters of the Red Sea to allow them to walk across on dry land.
What gave the psalmist hope was remembering, God always makes a way.
In God’s kingdom, there are no hopeless situations. No matter how far we have strayed away; no matter how big the challenge; no matter how hard the trial…God always makes a way.
It just may be that you haven’t reached the edge of the water yet … you’re still making your way through the wilderness. Keep walking – you’re not there yet.
Perhaps God’s brought you to the end of yourself, and you are staring at an uncrossable sea of pain and hurt and sorrow. Stop. Wait. The Spirit of God will soon push back those waters and you will see the way through.
And maybe, just maybe, you’re making your way through now, in fear and trepidation of a fragile situation, expecting the walls to come crashing in on you at any moment. Take heart. Believe. God’s right hand has not lost its power; He is in control. Keep trusting.
God doesn’t pay attention to our self-imposed expiration dates. We don’t get to write on His calendar. His plans and purposes for our lives will be fulfilled, and He will get the glory.
Let’s leave the purging of our hearts to the One who knows the end of the story and has the power to get us there. Take heart, dear sister. Believe, dear brother. God’s not done with you yet.