Recently, I listened to an interview of a woman who was drugged and raped at age 21. She had been raised in a Christian home but, while at college, had begun to stray from her faith. She started drinking heavily with her friends, frequently getting drunk at parties. One night, she awoke to find herself alone with her assailant who ignored her pleas for mercy and fulfilled his desires.
She recalled how, during her teenage years, virginity was upheld in her youth group as something of a golden calf. Sex outside of marriage was portrayed as deeply sinful and a cause of great shame. After her assault, she found it difficult to separate sin committed by her from sin committed to her. While she was sinned against, she testified how, for several years afterwards, she felt “dirty.” She had had sex before marriage and was therefore felt unclean in God’s eyes. It took her some time to come to terms with the fact that God was sympathetic, rather than condemning, toward her.
She related that it was two-and-a-half years before she shared with anyone about the rape. During those years of silence, she persuaded herself that she had brought the incident upon herself. God was judging her for straying from him and for overindulging in alcohol. She blamed herself, not her rapist, for the assault.
She added that her initial response is hardly uncommon. Today, she frequently meets women who confess the same feelings after their experiences of assault and abuse. She says her greatest challenge is often to remind Christian women that God is not angry with them but is instead grieved over the sins committed against them.
Psalm 109 testifies to this dynamic. After a long silence in Book 4 of the Psalms, where David’s voice was rare, David returns in the first few psalms of Book 5. Here, he writes of an experience in which his enemies once again plotted his downfall. He pleads with God not to be silent (v. 1) and then spends the better part of the psalm describing the evil plotting of his detractors and praying for vindication (vv. 2–20). He then expresses confidence that God is, indeed, on his side and will, in fact, deliver him (vv. 21–31). But it is the closing verse to which we must turn our attention: “For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death” (v. 31). Notice that: “He stands at the right hand of the needy one.”
That may seem like a strange sentiment. If God was at the right hand of the needy one, why did David (“the needy one”) face the opposition he did in the first place? If God was as committed to justice as the psalm suggests, why did David face such deep injustice? If God hated sin, as David knew he must, why did he allow his “needy one” to be sinned against so grievously?
This is a question with which we are frequently faced. If God has a Father’s heart for us—if he truly does stand at the right hand of his needy ones—why do we face affliction, suffering, and injustice? Why does he allow people to mistreat us when he is committed to our good? It is a question with which we frequently wrestle.
N. T. Wright speaks of life in this world as “a narrative of God’s project of justice within a world of injustice.” In other words, for reasons we cannot fully comprehend, God doesn’t always work to immediately end injustice but to instead bring about justice through injustice. We know that ultimate justice will be done, but it will not be done by an abrupt ending of all injustice in the here and now. Instead, God is working to beautifully bring about justice through the injustices we face.
That truth may not give you the answers to your pressing questions when you suffer injustice but, even in the face of your distressing questions, allow this psalm to speak to you of your Father’s heart. Don’t allow injustice to fool you into thinking that God does not care. Even as you face injustice, and even as it does not seem to let up, know that “he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.”