“Is it easiest to trust God in the midst of trials or happy times?”
It was my turn to lead the devotional on my youth group camping trip, and I thought I was being quite clever by begging to ask this question. “During the happy times” is what I expected to hear from everyone, but it wasn’t so.
It was probably split 50/50, actually, depending on how each person dealt with trials, what they’d been through, and so on. One of the girls spoke up and said, “When times are good, I just worry about all the bad things that could happen. But when I’m going through difficult times, the only thing I really can cling to is God’s promises.”
Fast forward about five years and I’m facing a scary brain tumor diagnosis. I came to understand the last bit of that wisdom. I clung to Scripture, and began studying what God’s Word says about suffering.
Psalm 56 stuck with me—particularly the last half:
“You have kept count of my tossings;put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, thatGod is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” —Psalm 56:8-13
Yes, the psalmist’s situation was a little different—crying out to God for help in the midst of persecution. Yet his string of emotions throughout Psalm 56 rings true for many: a cry for help, an expression of his confidence in God’s power to save, a request that God justify the suffering he’s going through, and a promise of his vows to God.
“You kept a count of my tossings . . .” uses the Hebrew word “nodiy” which appears only here in the Old Testament. It most likely comes from the word “nadad,” meaning “to wander,” expressing the psalmist’s deep distress and lost feelings.
Yet “. . . put my tears in your bottle” reminds us that God observes our afflictions with compassion and tender concern, he is afflicted by our afflictions, and he knows our souls in adversity. Lamenters often complain that God is absent or doesn’t notice their trials, yet he expresses confidence that God watches over him, even in the midst of suffering.
Belief mixed with frustration, tears mixed with joy, fear mixed with faith. Yet, through it all, confidence in God’s faithfulness, because he knew God was for him.
We may not know what tomorrow holds. We may go through periods when we think we just won’t be able to make it. We might shed countless tears. But despite it all, we know that he works all things for good (Romans 8:28). Despite all odds, we know that God is for us.
It is for this reason we praise his word, or as the original translation puts it—we “shine, radiate, and are visible” in our praise. Even in the midst of suffering. We can’t see the full picture, but we know that God is faithful—because he has already delivered us from death, that we might walk before God in the light of life.