Reality Check

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We live in an age in which an arguably small but very vocal minority strongly push a humanistic worldview that seeks to sideline God, religion, and anything supernatural. French biologist Jacques Monod describes man’s quest for meaning as an “age old dream” and says that it is necessary for man “to discover his total solitude” and his “radical strangeness.” While man likes to think that he is somehow significant, the universe, says Monod, is, in fact, “deaf to his music” and “as indifferent to his hopes as to his sufferings—or to his crimes.”

For Monod, suffering has no purpose. We should not expect the suffering we experience or inflict to be redeemed or avenged. In this worldview, Bertrand Russell was correct: We build our lives on the “firm foundation of unyielding despair.”

Thankfully, Monod, Russell, and their fellow atheists are wrong. Our cosmos is not accidental. There is meaning to our existence. There is hope of justice. We know this because “the LORD sits enthroned forever” and “has established his throne for justice and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the people with uprightness.” This righteous judge, “is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:7–9).

Psalm 9 reflects the reality of where we live our lives. It is a mixture of praise and petition—a blend of celebration and setback. The promise of the psalm is straightforward: God is more powerful than our afflictions and is concerned about our struggles. We should therefore bring our struggles to him in faith and consciously praise him even in the midst of suffering.

Monod and his cohorts would have us believe that we are on our own and that we must make our own meaning. When life spins radically out of control—whether due to human opposition or catastrophic circumstances—the Bible encourages God’s people that the universe (as if the universe were a sentient being!) is not indifferent to our hopes, sufferings, or crimes. On the contrary, the universe is ruled and filled by a God who hears, sees, and acts on behalf of those who seek him.

Yahweh does not forsake those who put their trust in him and, therefore, those who trust in him should “sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion” and should “tell among the peoples his deeds” (vv. 10–11).

In times of despair and uncertainty, God intends the Psalms to provide us with comfort. He intends us to use the Psalms as a template for prayer and as a guide to praise. Why not, as a devotional exercise, try to do that as you read Psalm 9?

Read vv. 1–2 and reflect on God’s faithfulness in your life. Think of and pray through specific ways in which he has proven faithful to you in the past. What does his faithfulness in these specific examples teach you of his character?

Read vv. 3–6 and think of specific, concrete examples of God’s activity in the midst of your current struggles. Lockdown may have left you reeling financially or relationally, but how has God shown himself to be consistent while economies and relationships collapse?

Read vv. 7–12 and reflect on what you know of the character of God. Why does God’s character provide hope for you in the midst of your current struggle? Which actions of God give you hope that he will bring you safely to the other side of the current storm?

Read vv. 13–14 and honestly lay your current pain and struggles before the Lord. Be honest: How are you struggling in the current situation? How has lockdown affected you? What emotions have you wrestled with during the present crisis?

Read vv. 15–18 and rejoice in the truth that suffering will not have the final word. David, of course, was writing of suffering resulting from human opposition, but the Scriptures make it plain that, in the end, all suffering resulting from the curse against sin will be eradicated. Let that truth encourage you.

Finally, read vv. 19–20 and call on God to arise and intervene. He is faithful and true. Bring your petitions, with passion, conviction, and hope, to the one who sits enthroned forever and who has established his throne for justice.

In a world that looks to sideline God, let Psalm 9 be a reality check for you.

Stuart