At some point, every Christian will doubt the goodness of God. We all walk through periods of pain, darkness, or loss that can make us wonder if God loves us, if He cares about us, and if He will keep His promises to us. It should not surprise us when this happens, but we need to know what is true so we can preach to ourselves in our doubts and pain.
In his classic book Spiritual Depression, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggests that many of our worst problems come when we listen to ourselves instead of talk to ourselves. He offers the example of Psalm 42, where the psalmist says, “Why, my soul, are you so dejected?” (v.5). Lloyd-Jones’s point is that if we only listen to ourselves, we will continually doubt God’s goodness. But if we preach truth to ourselves, we will begin to see our faith in God’s promises reaffirmed.
Today’s readings give us good news to preach to ourselves. As Elihu continues his speech, he points to an essential truth about God, one we all must remember. He says, “But when God is silent, who can declare him guilty? When he hides his face, who can see him? Yet he watches over both individuals and nations” (Job 34:29).
God’s silence does not mean that He is indifferent to our suffering. Our not sensing His presence does not mean He has abandoned us. Elihu’s declaration is true: the providential hand of God is always in operation, even when we do not necessarily see it at work.
David helps us to remember this through his words in Psalm 28. He begins his prayer by asking the Lord to hear him instead of remaining deaf to his cries. He begs the Lord to listen to him. Then halfway through the psalm, he blesses the Lord, saying, “He has heard the sound of my pleading” (v.6).
You might wonder how David could ask God to hear him, to not ignore him—then turn around to say that he is confident God truly does hear him. The answer is found in David’s statement in verse seven: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” David trusted in the Lord. He believed God’s Word, and was certain of His power to save and deliver him.
Our hard times can be disorienting. When we are facing a job loss, sickness, divorce, depression, or a wayward child, we may struggle to know who we are and what is real. This is why we need to remind ourselves of the truth in these dark nights of the soul. We must remember that God loves us and is for us. We must be convinced in the depths of our hearts that God does not take us through the fire to burn us, but instead to refine us.
If you are in the furnace of affliction today, take heart. Your God loves you. Your God is with you. Your God will not leave you or forsake you. Hold on to that today.
Written by Scott Slayton