Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction? Part I
Biblical Truths to Guide Believers in Hard Times
The Psalter in General

Introduction: the series: Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction addresses a common reaction for many believers. The question addresses two figures: God, His control, providence, and trustworthiness; two: the believer in the context of God’s hard providence. The psalm has been placed in the Bible for our instruction. The question: how should we be instructed? The series offers answers to that question. .

Psalm 88 is the penultimate psalm in book III (Psalms 73-89). The theme of Psalm 88: abandoned by God, must be considered either as fact or fiction. It is important to realize that there is an organizational content to the Psalter. Therefore individual psalms are placed in context and according to the theme of each book. Helpfully one scholar assigns the following themes to each book:

• Book I (1-41): the rise of the Davidic kingdom associated with conflict and confrontation. David, the lesser messiah, anticipates the greater David and Messiah, is God’s agent to establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness. He is mostly on the run addressing his own personal struggles. Often, he is attacked because he is God’s man. David is the author of almost all of these psalms (except Psalms 1-2).

• Book II (42-72): the glory of the Davidic kingdom. Accompanying the rise to glory there are victories within and without Israel but there is still conflict. There is an increasing and profitable communication within Israel and with David’s enemies outside of Israel. David presents the rule of God as an established fact; David authored most of these psalms (51-71).

• Book III (73-89): the collapse of the Davidic kingdom with more conflict and defeat at the hands of international armies. There is disarray with resultant devastation and misery in Israel. Israel lost her favored position. It is no accident that Book III ends with the statement that the Lord’s enemies have mocked Him (89:51). This statement raises the question: has God failed His people and proven untrustworthy and covenantally unfaithful? is it fact or fiction: is the believer abandoned by God or not? David authored only one of these of these Psalms (Psalm 86).

• Book IV (90-106): life in exile: Israel is in exile but there is maturation of the nation at least in the remnant. Only Psalms 101-103 are attributed to David.

• Book V (107-150): Israel returns to the Promised Land and begins life after exile. There is consummation as God demonstrates His covenantal faithfulness as He brings the people home. Psalms 108-110, 122, 124, 133, and 138-145 are attributed to David.

Psalm 88 is one of the few individualistic Psalms in Book III (see Psalm 73). It deals extensively with the menacing reality of hard times and death and psalmist’s conclusion that he was abandoned by God. The psalmist is an individual in distress. The psalmist concluded that he had been abandoned by God based on his circumstances. Unlike other psalms, this psalm offers little hope. It proclaims a sober and somber note as the psalmist pictures his future, and perhaps his past and present, as one of darkness, deadness, and soon the grave (v.1, 3-7, 10-12). He paints the picture of a sovereign God whose wrath swept over him (v. 15-18). Correctly, he acknowledged God’s sovereignty and His providence (v.1-2, 6-9) but he pictures God as one who has rejected him and has not and is not there when he needs Him (v.13-18). The main theme of Psalm 88 is the psalmist’s conclusion that it is fact: God does abandon His people!

The psalmist is at the bottom of the pit – he pictures life – God’s providence – as a hole too deep and too dark for him to “see” or “feel” God and to discern a way out (v.3, 7). He concluded that he was trapped without resources. The mindset of the psalmist does not change throughout the psalm. Throughout Psalm 88, the psalmist functions as if God had abandoned him – it is fact not fiction. He is convinced.  Therefore he does not close on a hopeful, upbeat note. Rather he proclaims that darkness is his friend (v.18). Our question: is the psalmist living the lie?

It is open to speculation as to the author of the Psalm and his situation, its type and duration. Some have suggested the author was quarantined because of some sickness such as leprosy or that he was enslaved in chains and mistreated. Apparently darkness was his closest companion (v.5-6). Whether he meant this figuratively or actually is not known.

Psalm 88 is Scripture and therefore was given by God for a purpose. What is that purpose? What is God teaching His people in and through it? Is it fact or fiction: Does He actually abandon His people? Are circumstances the standard for determining whether God has abandoned His people? Are we to interpret God and His purpose based on our sensual experience? Or are to interpret our sensual experience by God’s truth?

Psalm 88 is one of the psalms of the “Sons of Korah” (Book II: Psalms 42-49; Book III: Psalms 84-85, 87-88). The “Sons of Korah” refer to the Levitical choir composed of the descendants of Korah, a Levite, appointed by David to serve in the temple liturgy. The choir leaders consisted of Jeduthun (Ethan), Asaph of the family of Gershon, and Heman of the family of Kohath who rose to prominence among David’s musicians. Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman, a man of wisdom but whose wisdom paled when compared to such people as David as displayed throughout the Psalms or Solomon (1 Kings 4:31). These facts are assumed and open to speculation but nonetheless they are important as we consider the message of this psalm and its application. However, it appears that the author was a man of wisdom who had a personal relationship with God.

1. Study the outline of the Psalter. Give some thought to God’s division and His purposes.
2. God’s redemptive purpose fits into every book but takes on a different perspective. Psalms 1 and 2 set the stage for the Psalter and God’s victory – the Kingly Messiah in His kingdom. The Psalter ends on a triumphal and final note with the Hallelu-Yah Psalms (145-150): the picture is one of acknowledging and exalting Yahweh as King and Messiah even as Israel has returned from exile.
3. The Psalter has God’s people look up and eternally for the purpose of living now as a child of the King. Consider how Psalm 88 fits into God’s redemptive purpose. What do you learn from the Psalm itself and what do you learn from it in the context of the whole Psalter?\

Abandoned By God: Comparison of Psalm 88 with Psalms 42-43: Part II

To further evaluate the question posed in Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction, I consider Psalms 42-43 which begins Book II of the Psalter. They are authored by Asaph of the same family and position as the author of Psalm 88. Please remember that the theme of Book II is the rising glory of the kingdom and the king. However, conflict was still present throughout the land but slowly the Davidic kingdom was taking shape. Asaph is faced with God’s providence and the same question that faced the psalmist of Psalm 88: abandoned by God: fact or fiction? Asaph’s final conclusion is in marked contrast to the psalmist of Psalm 88. Both psalms (42-43) pointed to the faithfulness and power of God in keeping His promise of having His man on the throne, ultimately the greater David, Jesus Christ (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

In Psalms 42-43, the author asks himself why he was downcast (42:5, 11; 43:1). The word translated as downcast is used several times by John in his gospel (11:33; 12:27; 13:21; 14:1, 27).. It describes Jesus’ response in those various situations. It describes David’s response in Psalms 6 and 13. It indicates an internal agitation, a disturbance and churning within, troubled and turmoil in the inner person – “noise in the soul.” He asked himself the same question: abandoned by God: fact or fiction? The psalmist answers himself by counseling himself to put his hope in the Lord – not self or circumstances (42:5, 11; 43:1).

He was to actively, willfully, and cognitively rely on a good God’s control. He had had the wrong source and object of saving faith/trust and true hope. He had a hope so but not a confident hope that this was God’s world who ran it His way for His glory and the good of His people. But and that but is key. He corrected himself. He realized that hope and trust are linked to each other and to knowledge. The psalmist came to his senses. He did not want to live the lie any longer. Such was the case with Job (Job 40:2-5; 42:1-6), Asaph (Psalm 73:16-18), and the prodigal son (Luke 15:17-18). The psalmist’s situation had not changed. He had changed!

The conditions were different in Psalm 88 from that described in Psalms 42-43. In book II, the Davidic kingdom was on the rise. In book III, the Davidic kingdom had collapsed. The glory had departed from Israel (see the book of Lamentations. The time was reminiscent of the days when the ark was captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:21-22). Mighty Israel had fallen and apparently her God. When you read Psalm 88 you don’t hear the psalmist counsel himself as the psalmist did in Psalms 42-43 or as Asaph did in Psalm 73 (v.16-18). In Psalm 88 the psalmist concluded that he had been abandoned by God. Psalm 88 is less a lament and more a complaint in spite of the fact that the psalmist knew that his situation was part of God’s providence (v.6-9). In that sense shame on him! he was living the lie. He knew he was not abandoned by God but he never voiced that truth.

Perhaps in his complaint-lament, he is appealing to God but for what. He is a praying man and he asked God to hear his prayer (v.1, 9, 15). Yet as did Job, he makes accusation against God: where are you? Why do you forsake me (v.5, 8, 13-18)? Why have you abandoned me? The psalmist wants to know why and he expects an answer now: why are you on my case and why are you not explaining yourself? I am in trouble and you are nowhere to be found. Psalm 88 records the charge against God: he has abandoned the psalmist and Judah.

Today we are often directed to use the Psalms but often the Psalm is taken out of the context of the organization of the Psalter. The Psalms are then used as a manual to direct individuals to tell God how they “feel” rather than how they should think, desire, and act in any given situation. Some theologians go to lengths to teach the how of lamenting. It is as if the harder the providences from God, the more you can and should tell God. Most preachers do proscribe the idea of “letting God have it.” But the idea is put forth that God is all ears to His saints. That statement is true to a degree but we must guard against misusing our access to the Triune God. Our access cost Jesus His position of glory for a time and going to hell on the cross.

Asking probing questions can be a legitimate use of prayer. However, you must face the reality that if God answered you personally and directly, let alone in His word, would you be satisfied? Saving faith and true hope look at the present through eternity (Hebrews 11:1, 6). Neither demands but seeks and trusts – help my unbelief (Mark 9:24; Luke 7:6-7; 8:50). Saving faith and true hope are associated with a twofold knowledge of God and of self. The question: God abandons His people: fact or fiction – must answered in the negative. The believer knows and he is to be growing in the certainty of God’s presence, promises, power, plan, purposes, and provisions of Himself for each individual believer. The believer grows in his understanding of himself as a child of the King in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit. That relationship and position was purchased by nothing less than Christ’s perfect life and death. That relationship is guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The psalmist did not live on this side of the cross. There was much he did not know. But God never leaves His people with less than they need to know for them to get victory. I wonder if the Holy Spirit was grieved by the hopelessness of the psalmist. We will never know but we don’t need to know. It is fiction that God abandons His people. How could he? He forsook His Son but will not forsake believers (Romans 8:31-34).

Based on the Psalm itself, the psalmist lived the lie. We assume it was only for a time. He declared that God had ears but He did not hear or care (see Isaiah 6:9-10). The psalmist felt and thought that he was forsaken and rejected. He used feelings, his understanding, and circumstances as his interpretive grid to draw conclusions about God. The reality of being forsaken are reserved only for Jesus Christ as the God-man; they are never applicable to the believer (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 – apparently referring to Psalm 22). Only Jesus has been forsaken by the Father. The believer will never be forsaken by God (Romans 8:31-34, 35-39). These are great truths that must be remembered, embraced, and applied in every instance of God’s providence not just “hard times.”

1. Consider the darkness in your life. How did you process it?
2. What is the reality of darkness?
3. How is the psalmist of Psalm 88 similar to Job? What was Job’s final answer as given in Job 40 and 42?
4. What are truths that all believers should hold close during “dark” times?

Abandoned by God: Paul’s Commentary: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 and 4:8-9: Part III a

We are considering Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction. In the context of abandoned by God: fact or fiction, Psalm 88 is a unique Psalm. As noted earlier, it begins with a declaration of God’s sovereignty: His control, power, and authority. The psalmist refers to them several times in the Psalm (v.1-2, 6a-9). He apparently makes an appeal for relief and help but believes he has received no answer (v.9b-12). It is a given that God hears and answers every prayer. But he did not like or appreciate God’s presumed silence. He had no regard for God’s “no” or “wait.” He concluded: God does abandoned His people. It is fact!

Like Job, the psalmist of Psalm 88 “sees” no reason for his plight (v.14). Unlike Job, he does not demand God to give him an accounting; but he makes it clear that from his perspective that God had rejected and abandoned him, pushed him to the side. He was living the lie as Job did for a time. We don’t know what became of the psalmist.

Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, gives a mini-commentary on a proper response to hard times (see specifically 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 4:8-9). Paul follows Asaph’s example in Psalms 42-43 and counsels himself and his companions. Specifically he referred to verse 15 of Psalm 88: From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and I am in despair (2 Corinthians (1:8; 4:8).

v.8: Now we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, about the hardship that we suffered in Asia. We were under great pressure far beyond human ability so that we even despaired of life.
v.9: Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

v.8: We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair;
v.9: persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

In the first and fourth chapters of the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul relates his heart/inner-man turmoil in the context of his circumstances. In chapter 1, He described hardship that he and his companions faced (v.8). The word translated hardship is a general word for trouble which indicates God’s providence in terms affliction, distress, or pressure from the outside. It can be translated as evil. They evaluated themselves and their situation and concluded themselves without resources. There was uncertainty and doubt as to their final, earthly outcome. There seemed to be no way out except physical death. Consequently they were perplexed but not “depressed.” Did Paul conclude as did the psalmist that God abandons His people?

The word in the original translated as despair occurs only in our two passages (1:8; 4:8) and in the Septuagint in Psalm 88:15. It means to be wholly without resources. The word speaks of external trouble. Coupled with “hard pressed” in verse 8 of chapter 4, Paul is speaking of the potential squeeze of the heart in unpleasant and miserable conditions. I have alluded to various suggestions regarding the tough times of the author of Psalm 88. Paul declared his tough times throughout the book of 2 Corinthians (4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:16-29; 12:7-10).

There was no question that each person (Paul and the psalmist) came face to face with the living God in those tough times. In response, both the psalmist in Psalm 88 and Paul considered themselves without resources. However, throughout Psalm 88 the psalmist did not change his view of God, himself, and his circumstances. He wanted relief. He did not get it and concluded that God abandons His people. The psalmist never tells us whether he changed his view of God, himself, others, and God’s providence. The theme of Psalm 88: abandoned by God: fact or fiction – is an ever-present question that must be answered daily God’s way.

In contrast to the psalmist of Psalm 88 and throughout Paul’s epistles, Paul describes his changing view of God, self, others, and providence. He underscored the importance and blessing of God and relying on Him rather than following Satan’s counsel of pleasing self at God’s expense (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-10). .

Today, Paul and the psalmist would most likely have received the diagnosis of “depression” (or even a delusional or schizoid disorder ) simply on the basis of what they said and more importantly on how they “felt.” Feeling a certain way qualifies a person for a diagnosis of “depression.” With the liberalized screening criteria for “depression”, both would have been offered treatment.

Paul was not describing how he felt. Perhaps neither was the psalmist. However, their frame of reference was different. Paul stated his thinking given his situation and the uncertain outcome from his and his friends’ perspective. He did not know what God had in store for them. He was hard pressed – he did not see how he and his friends would survive physically. He had two choices: look at the circumstances via a self-lens or view the circumstances from God’s perspective. He chose to look away from self to the living God. He clarified his perspective. He counseled himself.

Much like Job in the later part of the book of Job, the psalmist of Psalm 88 viewed God through his circumstances. In response he demanded a response from God. He concluded that God abandons His people. Throughout the psalm he does not give the readers a sense of relief. He seems to hunker down in his circumstances. He knows where to turn (v.1-2, 9, 13). His main concern is why God has rejected him. Paul gives one reason for his circumstances: that they may not rely on self – self-trust – but on God who raises the dead – His people (2 Corinthians 1:9). God was in the business of humbling His people. Hopefully the psalmist came to understand that the believer is the most changed person. As a result he is to be the most changing person! God’s people are not to be living the lie. Believers did that when they were unbelievers!

1. Compare and contrast Paul’s response in terms of thinking and wanting with that of the author of Psalm 88.
a. What do you learn?
b. What are the similarities and the differences?
2. Name your tough or hard providences and record your thoughts, desires, and actions.
3. Record where you are lacking and where you are excelling in Christlikeness.
4. Record your response to your evaluation.

Abandoned by God: Paul’s Commentary: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 and 4:8-9, Part III b

In our discussion: Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction, we are using the New Testament for help. Initially Paul and his friends may not have “seen” things from God’s perspective. We don’t know. But Paul and we suspect his friends came to embrace God’s purpose in bringing about trouble as given in verse 9: this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. God placed Paul in his situations for at least two purposes: in God’s providence, Paul and his friends were being taught to depend less and less on self (deny self and self-trust) and to depend more and more on God. As a result, they would become wise (Proverbs 1:7). How would that wisdom look? Trouble, which is God’s providence, must be viewed thought the lens of Scripture. Paul and his friends were encouraged more and more to look to God, the Great Deliverer, who richly supplies His children with all they need to honor Him in every situation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In chapter 4, Paul used another term – hard pressed – to indicate pressure from without which was squeezing him and his companions. The pressure was not the key. It was the context in which Paul would respond based on his thinking about self, God, and circumstances. The word indicates a squeezing such as one would squeeze grapes. Please note that Paul proclaims that even though “there was a lot of squeezing going on,” he and his companions were not crushed. They did not give in and give up. Paul used the word hard pressed to picture a tight-fitting jacket and indicate a narrow, tight place. It is used only here and later in chapter 6, verse 12. Paul wrote that they did not let circumstances dictate how they would respond in terms of their thoughts, desires, and actions.

The details of these two passages (1:8-9; 4:8-9) are reminiscent of the response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they faced the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3). They responded in allegiance to Yahweh who delivered them from the fire in His providence but not from Babylonian captivity. All of these saints were following in Christ’s footsteps. Christ had one goal: to please His Father. He stayed the course and won the prize but after the cross and NOT before: John 6:37-43; 17: 17:4-5, 24-26; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 12:1-3. Hard times characterize life in a sin-cursed world. They are a given until Christ returns. The fact that eternal life begins now and Christ will return means that circumstances do not dictate how a person is to respond in thought, desired, or acted. They did not dictate to Christ and they should not for the believer.

Was Paul depressed? He had bad feelings and he was in a “tight squeeze” (the idea of pressure and trouble is imbedded in the original language). We know that Paul was actively engaged in setting his hope on God the Deliverer in his uncertain circumstances (2 Corinthians 1:9) and in becoming more like Christ (2 Corinthians 4:10). A growing dependence on a sovereign God no matter the circumstances characterized Christ’s life (John 4:31-34; Hebrews 4:15-16; 5:7-10).

What was Paul’s antidote for not giving in to feelings thereby giving up on God and life? It was the same as Christ’s – a desire to please the Father. For Paul, he was grateful for God – who He is, what He had done, was doing, and would do (Philippians 3:8-11). He was grateful for his own salvation, God’s comfort, and the opportunity to minister in Christ’s name (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:12-16). Those realities produced an awe and urgent desire to grow in intimacy with Christ and he was willing to us hard times as a tool (Philippians 3:7-11; Romans 8:28-29).

1. The psalmist of Psalm 88 was in trouble and hard pressed. He had a vertical reference. What was it? What did he conclude?
2. Do hard circumstances – God’s providence – give believers a right to respond by simply telling God whatever?
3. What is the purpose of telling God? If there is no response or a response that you don’t like, is it biblical to conclude that God has abandoned you?
4. How should a believer speak to God and what should be his request(s)?

Paul’s Commentary: 2 Corinthians 4: Part IV

As we continue the discussion: Psalm 88: It think it is sad that the psalmist of Psalm 88 did not end on a note of hope and joy in the midst of God’s dark or frowning providences (John Murray’s term). In Psalm 88, he concluded that it is fact not fiction: God does abandon and forsake His people. The theme of Psalm 88: abandoned by God: fact or fiction – is an ever-present concern of believers. We should never ignore the miseries of life in a sin-cursed world. In fact, it is impossible to do. But the believer can never be consumed by or in them. As I have discussed, Paul referenced Psalm 88 (verse 15) in 2 Corinthians 1:4 and 4:8 using the word despair. The word will be translated as depression/ depressed based on a cultural and psychologized mindset. The word indicates Paul’s approach to the squeezes of life (God’s providences) was hinted in verses 1 and 16 of chapter 4:
• v.1: Therefore since through God’s mercy we have this ministry we do not lose heart.
• v.16: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

The original word translated as lose heart is used six times in the New Testament (Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:13). It carries the ideas of being faint and fainthearted vs. courageous and strong-hearted. Jesus gave the command many times to His disciples (Matthew 9:2; 14:27; John 14:1-3). How does a believer not lose heart in hard providences?

For Paul, inner-man renewal was crucial. He understood God’s way: pruning came often times in the throes of hard times (Romans 5:1-5; James 4:1-2; 1 Peter 1:6-7). God will have His people grow into Christlikeness and He uses tough times to accomplish His goal. This truth is often minimized or rejected. A person can acknowledge and repent of complaints about his situation because it is a complaint against God. He can also look forward to heaven because there are no hard times there, only joy. But he asks: how does he move from the present to heaven? Feelings seem to demand something than trust in God and growth in Christ (Romans 8:28-29).

Paul understood God’s plan and purpose for all believers, himself included, and he embraced it. As given in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul responded to God’s no by asking God to place him in hard times and times of weakness. By that he meant he was not in control. In God’s hard providences, he was strong because his dependence was not on self (2 Corinthians 1:9). His strength was not his own but grace. He would rely on God and His grace and not self. That last statement takes us back to where we began: 2 Corinthians 1:9. Hard times were intended for Paul and his companions to trust in God rather than self. God drew the line in the sand much as Joshua did for the Israelites (24:14-15). Paul and his friends were to answer the question daily: who will you serve: self and Satan or God.

For the believer, resurrection life begins now because the believer was raised with Christ (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-11). A new relationship and family membership has been forged. The beauty of a resurrected, eternal life is that it begins now. It is a reality because the believer is in Christ and he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Therefore his perspective in all situations is to be heavenward (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). Heavenly-mindedness enables the believer to be of earthly good. When it is, life is simplified. Problems are still present but they take on a different perspective as Joseph discovered (Genesis 50:15-21).

1. It is tempting to excuse the psalmist or anyone when they are faced with had providences. Is that what Paul taught throughout 2 Corinthians?
2. What is Paul’s main message and how will you apply it daily?
3. Using Genesis 50:15-21 and Romans 8:28-29, write out God’s message and you will specifically apply those truths.

Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction? Part V
Summary: Biblical Truths to Guide Believers in Hard Times

Concluding our discussion: Psalm 88: Abandoned by God: Fact or Fiction, we are faced with a question that many believers ask in all ages. Will I be abandoned by God. The answer deserves God’s truth!  I have mentioned Psalm 73. I love that Psalm. I also love the book of Job which I think is misinterpreted in a number of ways (see my book scheduled to be released in the fall). Psalm 73 and the book of Job is less about them (Asaph and Job) and more about the greatness of God and His relationship to His people seen through the lens of dark providences and their interpretation. Job was a type of Christ but he was not Him. Jesus never demanded God to give an account to Him as Job did, and probably as the psalmists did. Jesus did not think that He had made a wrong decision in coming to earth, humbling Himself, and going to the cross in order to please the Father.

Asaph thought that he had made a wrong choice in becoming a believer (Psalm 73:13-14). Psalm 88 embodies that same mindset: it is fact or fiction that God abandons His people. The author of Psalm 73 and Job lived the lie for a time. We don’t know how long the author of Psalm 88 lived the lie. We are not told. Amazingly and graciously and in stark contrast, Jesus never lived the lie. God has never forsaken any of His children including the psalmist and He will never will. Instead He forsook the Godman as the believer’s substitute (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)!

What are some non-negotiable truths that the believer must embrace, recall, and use daily in the midst of God’s providence? These truths are simple, powerful, and gracious and are expressed as follows: First, the believer must start with God. The simple and yet profound fact that God is – His being and nature – is foundational. He exists and He exists for Himself and His people. Second, He is real even when you think and feel He isn’t or others tell you that God is out to lunch, asleep, uncaring, or simply unable and unwilling to take care of His world and His people. Third, He is present even if you don’t “feel” as if He is or circumstances seem to indicate that He is not present. Fourth, God is good, powerful, and trustworthy. The cross and the resurrection affirm and confirm these truths.

What more would a person need or want? Here is the crux of the problem: we too often want relief and relief is spelled as out – out of my situation now. God hears and answers all prayers and His answers include, yes, no, and wait. God did answer the psalmist (Psalm 88). He said no and wait as He did to Joseph, David, Job, and ultimately to Jesus. He also says to us: no and wait today. However God’s no and His yes in always in Christ and always points to the Triune God and His trustworthiness (2 Corinthians 1:18-22). Some may label these as hard truths but they come from God’s heavenly oven baked for every believer in every situation (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

Sinful thinking leads to sinful and degrading words: when things don’t go the way a person prefers and even demands, he concludes that God is either non-existent or He is good but not powerful or He is powerful and not good. He then uses circumstances to dictate his thoughts and conclusions about God and himself. Consider this scenario and line of logic: if God is not in control and working good as I have defined it, then He is bad, impotent or both. Since my circumstances are “bad.” God must be untrustworthy. The person has lived the lie. For him, chance, feelings, circumstances, experience, and his own reasoning are the standards and guides for him. He then determines the presence and activity of God and His goodness – or badness. As a result, nothing is certain but he denies that fact. As a result of this prevalent line of logic, the person will live the lie but deny that he is (Romans 1:18-23)!

John wrote that the truth will set a person – the believer – free (John 8:31-32; 17:17). The truth is a person, the living Word and the written Word. Set free from what? It is bondage to self, Satan, and sin. It is set free from desiring what you want to desiring what God wants. It is set free from thinking and focusing on self to thinking God’s thoughts. A change in thinking and wanting leads to changed actions. Only the believer can do this. He takes on the mindset and perspective of Christ. He views the now – life in the physical and material spheres and that which a person takes in by his senses – from an eternal perspective (Romans 6:9-11; Colossians 3;1-3; 1 John 3:1-3).

Part of the Christian life is to be consumed by closing the gap between saving faith and true hope and non-saving faith and false hope often depicted by and as physical sight vs. the eyes of saving faith; or between man’s personal wisdom and God’s wisdom; and between God’s truth and man’s personal supposed truth. Every person is a sensual being – he is informed through his senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste). However he must interpret the information by the use of a standard: biblical truth which sets him free or according to his experience, reason divorced from biblical truth, or feelings. These latter standards are usually linked and only add more bondage (Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15; 26:11).

The psalmist of Psalm 88 knew God, had a relationship with him, prayed, and then complained. However, as Psalm 88 indicates, the author believed that God abandons His people. Therefore, he lived the lie and was miserable. Truth sets you free. He did Christ and all the saints. He will you free no matter the circumstances. That last statement is a theological mountain. How are you doing climbing it?

1. What truths do you apply and why in any situation?
2. What are the results?
3. Study Paul in 2 Corinthians 1 and 4, the psalmist of Psalm 88, and Job: what are similarities and what are the contrasts?