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It’s easy to have faith in God when everything is going
well. When I walk down the dirt road near our house and see the osprey flying
home to their nest with a fish in his claws, when the breeze cools my body and
the marsh grass glows a yellow-green and the blue of the water sparkles. When
Penny looks at me in the middle of the day and says, “I love you, Mom.” When I
am in church and the words of a praise song fill the room. When life feels
easy.

But most days, that’s not what it feels like. It might be as
simple as the kids are cranky or Peter and I are out of synch. Or it might be
the real hard stuff–death and war and poverty and all the ways this world is not
what it should be. How do I have faith in God on the days when I doubt God’s
existence? Or when the suffering and despair of people around me seems too much
to bear?

It’s on those days that I need to pay attention to Psalm 42:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O
God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. ?

When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (verses
1-3)

On the days–or in the long stretches of time–when we long
for God but God seems to be absent, this Psalm gives us a way to respond.
First, it instructs us to talk to God about it. The Psalmist says he “pours out
his soul.” He demands that God, this seemingly-absent God, listen to him. And
he asks all the tough questions: “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go
about mourning?” This Psalm gives us permission to pray honestly.

Second, the Psalmist makes himself remember that it hasn’t
always felt like this:

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: ?      

 how I used to go with the
multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, ?      

 with shouts of joy and
thanksgiving among the festive throng.
(verse 4)

He remembers times of praise, the feeling of joy, the
presence of other believers worshiping with him.

And finally, the Psalmist is stubborn. He clings to a hope
in God in spite of his current circumstances. In spite of the doubt. In spite
of the suffering. In spite of the absence. It’s almost as if he’s trying to
talk himself out of it. The Psalm concludes:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?

 ?      
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

(verse 11)

He could look back to stories of God’s deliverance of the
Israelites out of Egypt after hundreds of years of suffering and waiting. And
we can look back to the story of Jesus–the one whose soul was downcast, the one
who cried out to God on the cross–and know that even the most desolate cry was
heard by God, even the most desperate prayer was answered.

So on those days, in those years, when doubt and despair are
easier than faith and joy: Talk to God about it. Remember when it was
different. And tell yourself (or get others to tell you) the stories of hope.

 

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