I use the Psalms daily as part of Daily Prayer, but sometimes the cries of the Psalmist echo some of how I might be feeling on a particular day or time or a frustration about what is going on. Taking frustrations or anger to the Lord in prayer is a really powerful experience and Psalm 44 is one of those Psalms that carry a whole story in every single verse. I’m just thinking about Psalm 43.
The Psalm itself is described in the commentary as a ‘Prayer for Help’, while I accept that description for the whole Psalm, verse 23 seems to me to be a direct Shout out at God! How often have I found myself doing that very thing? Sometimes in anger and frustration at things I know that I have no control over, other times when things I have wanted to go my way, have gone completely differently.
But, am I entitled to shout at God, or should I be looking within myself to find the solution?
A situation that I find myself in at the moment is troubling and frustrating. Having discerned a possible vocation to Ordained Ministry, I went through the process of discernment for nearly three years, being affirmed and supported to diocese level, only to fall at national selection. This was a huge blow and caused enormous hurt and pain, perhaps it was for the best? I can’t judge on that basis because the further judgment of the report that there was “A strong vocation to Ministry, just not Ordained ministry. Fine, but where is the guidance, support or direction to take that ‘discerned’ vocation forward? I’m afraid, frustratingly, after numerous delays, the answer appears to be nowhere. My experience is of soft, supportive words, but no meaningful pathway offered or available. I needed a breather after selection, but now, over twelve months later I remain in Limbo, abandoned and seemingly ignored.
No wonder I feel like shouting at God. After all, he got me into this, isn’t it up to him to get me out of it?
Which is why this particular verse is so relevant and powerful to me at the moment. I don’t have the answer within me, so it must be up to God -mustn’t it?
The commentary tells me:
“He knows the secret of the heart, therefore judges of the words and actions. While our troubles do not drive us from our duty to God, we should not suffer them to drive us from our comfort in God. Let us take care that prosperity and ease do not render us careless and lukewarm”.
This doesn’t answer my question? I know through faith and hope that I have God’s love and comfort unconditionally, but is that enough for me, when he seemingly ignores the call he made to me, I answered unconditionally only to be rejected. I’m not careless and lukewarm! The call remains vivid and strong, but I question is it God who is being careless and lukewarm? Perhaps my sense of call isn’t where he made it, but how can I work so hard to discern a call to something that has left me feeling dejected, and abandoned by his Church? That must be worth a shout or two!
Earlier in the commentary it tells me:
In afflictions, we must not seek relief by any sinful compliance; but should continually meditate on the truth, purity, and knowledge of our heart-searching God. Hearts sins and secret sins are known to God, and must be reckoned for. He knows the secret of the heart, therefore judges of the words and actions.
This seems to be saying to me prayer and waiting are needed. God knows that our hearts desire is for his will to be evident in our lives as a witness to him, but why is his will so often missing. Surely, I’ve done all that I possibly could to fulfil the call, but somehow God’s will is being missed either by me or by those within the church whose role it is to discern it, to select and train it and to deploy it. I have no real argument to deploy for the Church and possibly some to make for a better, more inclusive system which allows those in discernment to be provided with constructive after care, which signposts other possibilities. Rather than the current one of abandonment.
Prayers not answered is a constant of our lives, I’ve always been consoled by the thought that they’re never wasted, that they will be answered in a way that is different from our want’s, but is best for us. Another get out of Jail clause for God, for his or the Churches inaction. The other consolation which I took on board was ‘As one door closes, another will open’ well, at the moment, all of the doors are slammed tightly shut. No wonder I want to shout at God!
Is this all down to God or to me? Possibly I’m missing something vital. God isn’t there to please me. He isn’t there to fulfil my wishes, he’s there to be loved and worshipped for his greatness and goodness and unstinting love for us all and the grace that flows from him to us and through us to others. There might just be a connection. By my closed mind to God’s grace through anger and frustration, might it me who is holding that door closed, with my foot firmly against it?
Reflecting on this business over the past few weeks and months, I’m able to discern that connection. It’s not me that counts, it’s God. If I keep him central to what he might be calling me too, and do so in humility and love, might I not get that response in some, new, exciting and unexpected direction. This is where hope kicks in – the very hope that God gave us through Jesus Christ and the incarnation. God doesn’t keep us on the hook deliberately, he waits until we are ready, receptive and prepared to put aside our own selfish wants and desires and to give unstintingly to and for him as he did for us. Eureka, I’ve got it Lord. Praise be to you.
God is great.