Reading: Psalm 13
How long, O Lord?
When we think of a test, we think of a hurdle we have to cross in order to get a reward of some kind. But that’s not the biblical notion of a test. A test is meant to reveal what’s there, like you would put metal under the stress of heat to test its level of purity. If it melts in the furnace, then it wasn’t so pure after all. But if it holds its integrity, the test has simply revealed what was already there.
It’s clear that suffering often reveals our sinfulness. We are likely to become angry and destructive. Some shut down completely and abdicate their duties. Others soldier on with duties, but harden their hearts so as not to feel any more of the pain—they just won’t care anymore. Still others use their suffering as an excuse to become the center of attention.
But if suffering is a test, and scripture often speaks of God testing his people, what is God looking for? What is he trying to reveal?
Many Christians believe that God is trying to reveal toughness, that he wants to see us bear down, grit our teeth and push through. A favorite verse of those who look at life this way is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). They believe that God wants to see our strength.
But that’s actually not true. God does want to see courage in us. But courage not according to our own strength. He wants to see courage according to his faithfulness to us. In other words, God is not looking for character qualities; he's looking for faith.
David’s cries of anguish in this psalm are real. He wonders aloud why God has not yet acted, and speaks of his sense of abandonment (v.1). He cries out from his internal struggle, both in his mind and in his heart (v.2). He complains of his circumstances, how his enemies seem to be winning (v.2). His cries are real, honest, even weak.
But his eyes are turned toward God in the midst of all of this. He brings his suffering to the Lord; he doesn’t run from him or blame him. Instead, he puts his faith in God’s faithfulness to him.
Suffering is not a sign that God has abandoned you. Instead, suffering reveals what’s underneath, what’s really there. That means suffering is both the occasion for repentance and for rejoicing—repentance for the sin and unbelief that’s revealed; rejoicing for the faithfulness of God which will outlast all of our suffering and bring us into the joy of our salvation.
Lord Jesus, you suffered unjustly for our sake. You walked into suffering so that we might walk in your mercy and love. We don’t suffer well. Suffering reveals pettiness, self-importance, lack of faith, and on, and on. Forgive us yet again, and teach us your ways. Teach us of your faithfulness to us that we might remain faithful to you. Show us your love that we might love you.