It is a question that rattles around like that pebble in our shoe that just won’t go away. Irritating us. Rubbing against our foot. Distracting our minds from the walk.
We fear what will happen if we shake that stone lose. If others see, they will know that we have been walking on rocky terrain. We worry what they will think about our journey.
But perhaps even more than fear of the asking is the fear of the answer. What if we shake that question lose, only to put our shoe back on and find the nuisance still there? What if asking doesn’t make it go away, but only makes us notice it all the more? What if it is replaced by another, and another, and another question until the load in our shoes is so heavy we cannot walk on any further?
These pebbles have various shapes and sizes and forms, but they are of the same color, fallen from the same rock.
It is the stone of disappointment.
We all face it somewhere on our journey of following Jesus. Often, in more than one place. What was once a smooth path is suddenly blocked by a rock built of unmet expectations and broken dreams and lost relationships. We breathe hard and our muscles ache from trying to climb to the other side. And then, even if we find the strength to heave our way over that boulder, we still wind up stuck with a pebble in our shoe. A remnant that we bring with us in the form of an unanswered question:
Is God really trustworthy?
Because this boulder we had to climb? That sure doesn’t seem like what we signed up for. What we heard from others their life was like, what we heard from God about that path we should take.
For me, today, this rock comes in the form of an unrealized dream. A dream I believe that God has put on my heart. So why hasn’t it happened yet? I say that it has not yet been God’s timing. I say that I still need time to grow and learn. I say that one day, it will happen. And mostly, I believe those things. But as I move forward, as I see others achieve the dream that I hold close, sometimes this walk feels more like a climb than I thought it would be. And then I have that pebble nagging at me from my feet.
Is God really going to come through?
What I love about the Psalms is that they put words to every human experience. None of our feelings are foreign to God. People have experienced them for centuries.
In the case of Psalm 44, the questioning of God’s trustworthiness was not just the pondering of one person, but the frustration of the entire nation.
We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us. Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love. –Psalm 44:1-2, 9-10, 23, 26
Their ancestors told them God was good, but they have not yet seen the evidence. Their nagging question cannot be kept silent anymore. Will God really come through for them?
There may have still been battles in which they wondered why the outcome was not what they thought it would be. And when that happened, this Psalm was one they could cry in frustration.
But in the end, those three words that end this Psalm are the key: your unfailing love. For the Israelites, that meant His covenant. For us, that means His Son.
Is God trustworthy? The answer is yes.
Not because we won’t be disappointed, but because of Jesus. We can dump out that pebble, be honest about how it felt, look up into the eyes of our Savior, and keep on walking towards Him. Until we get the next pebble, And then we do it all again.
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.