What stands out to me in Psalm 30 is that it is all in the past tense. The psalmist is looking back at his past and remembering what God has done. I need to do this so much more than I do. We are a “What have you done for me lately?” culture. If your team wins the Super Bowl, but has a losing season the next year, the coach will get fired. We are fickle with our sports teams. We microwave our food. We make instant coffee. We have on demand television and movies. And we demand the newest and the best in everything we buy. When the butterflies leave a marriage, we decide it’s time to move on. It’s no surprise that we do the same thing with God when things turn south.
I have met so many people who have been through such difficult experiences (have experienced evil) that it has turned their hearts away from God. God is seen as the one inflicting the evil so we feel like he’s abandoned us or given up on us. The Psalms don’t answer the question of why there is evil in the world or how could a good God allow suffering. These questions are valid, but they don’t have any slam dunk answers, and the Psalms don’t try giving any. But what we see in Psalm 28 is in the midst of evil’s afflictions, the psalmist turns toward God not away from him. We are going to experience trouble, evil, pain, suffering, et al in this world. Jesus assures us of this in John 16:33. I’ve had my own doubts and wrestling with God about why he has allowed me to experience certain sufferings and evils and the conclusion I have drawn is two-fold:
In our loneliness and anguish, we can come back to the gospel. We can be reminded of God’s amazing grace, mercy, and love toward us. We can ask God to pour more of his grace, mercy, and love on to us. Asking him to help us experience these truths more fully in the midst of the anguish we are in.
We need to be very careful here not to try to create a perfect theology about why this is, either trying to get God off the hook or somehow explain this exception in the prayer-formula that we’ve constructed. If you haven’t noticed yet, the Psalms don’t abide by any prayer-formula. We need to not look away and act like these parts of prayer aren’t in Scripture, as if we can sing our favorite worship song loud enough and God will be right there as our waiter holding a silver platter. We need to look toward these deep and sometimes disturbing parts of the Psalms. We will certainly need them. Jesus did.
We are a “What have you done for me lately?” culture. A football coach will win the Super Bowl, then get fired two years later. A star player has a breakout year and signs a huge contract, only to get cut or traded when his production falls off or is beset by injury. “What have you done for me lately?” is the engine that drives our culture’s romantic relationships today. People hop from boyfriend to boyfriend or girlfriend to girlfriend because the initial shine has worn off and the butterflies have fallen asleep, but there’s a new shiny person that has entered life who offers these things again. People change out of sexual relationships today as easily as they change outfits. It’s no surprise that we treat God the same way.
I’m not going to lie, the psalms continue to puzzle me and bend me theology in different directions. A psalm like this can feel a slam dunk that God is always going to answer all of your prayers and always bring you victory. But as we read through the entire book of psalms, we know that wasn’t always the case for the very psalmists writing these prayers. We know that many of the psalms are filled with prayers crying out to God in the midst of suffering and asking God why he is so silent.