Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Struggling With Confidence

I knew that reading through the Bible in a year would bring many more Scriptural issues to mind as I was writing here at Attention Span. In the log of my journey, I was interacting with Psalm 20 and 21. These two psalms were written as companion pieces; one to send the king off to battle and the other to welcome him home with thanksgiving to God for a victory. But what struck me was the confidence of the psalmist (David) as he writes. Each psalm was written so that much of it was sung by the assembled crowds, there to see the army off or to welcome it home. And the words exude confidence that God will grant the victory, then again that God will similarly grant future victories. There seems to be no shade of a doubt with the psalmist here, although admittedly there are passages from the psalter which show a struggle with doubt.

But I'm a little like Job in that I look around and I see the wicked prospering and the good floundering. I do not see the righteous always coming out on top in this world. Didn't David even entertain the notion that it might not have been God's Will for him to whip up on that day's enemy? I've always admired the retort of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, standing at the edge of the fiery furnace when they essentially told their executioner "God can save us, but even if He doesn't that doesn't make your actions right." That I can live with. An admission that God's plan may be for something much better than what this world has to offer. No less faith. Just less certainty of where the victory will take place.

But David marched off to war, positive he would return victorious. He had to be positive. After all he composed the words for the psalm which would welcome him back, right?! King David wrote that his enemies trusted in horses and chariots, but that he trusted in the name of the Lord. But I have to face the fact that I don't have that same confidence that everything will work out fine. I've been burned before.

Most everyone these days knows (or knew) someone in a battle with cancer. In my congregation, over half the people we pray for as a church on a regular basis are fighting cancer. But I know that God will choose to take most of those people in the next couple of years. Sure, there are occasional miracles. But by and large I know that God's victory will be in what happens to the people around the cancer victim and the final victory won by the victim at death. This isn't the same confidence which pours from David's words.

There are people who claim that any of these people will be cured if they have the faith. I say that's nonsense and disproven over and over by Scripture and by real life experience. God's cure is not always an earthly cure. Because I know that, I cannot stand before a 50 year old cancer victim and tell her that God will heal her completely and that she'll never have to worry about cancer again. That would be foolhardy and irresponsible on my part. As Christians we get sick, we have accidents, our spouses leave us, our kids die, our bodies get decrepit, our businesses fail, we get fired, we are robbed, and we suffer the heartbreak of psoriasis and the onset of halitosis. To deny this is turning a blind eye to what God does for us in the meantime.

I struggle with confidence about a cancer patient ever being cancer-free. I struggle with confidence about a spouse coming back home again or an accident victim making it through surgery or a child turning from pills and booze. But I do not struggle with the fact that God uses these experiences for the good of the families, the friends and even the people who simply read the story in the newspaper or hear about it on television.

Perhaps David had more information than he lets on in the psalter. Maybe he had special knowledge that a victory was God's plan for him and for Israel. But my confidence is no less in the Lord than David's was when he wrote the song which would welcome himself and his victorious troops home. Some trust in chariots and horses. Some trust in doctors and lawyers. Some trust in the power of the mind and the strength of the body. Some even turst in faith itself. But my trust is in the Lord my God. For I know that without Him, there is no reason for confidence.

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