Suffering & Evil- Where is God?

Summer Devotional Week 8

GETTING STARTED

Remember last week how we talked about spending time with God? Well, we're going to go there again in this week's devotional. Every month, I set a day in my calendar to spend with God in silence and solitude. I live in Salt Lake City, UT where I am within 20 minutes of hundreds of spectacular trailheads into the mountains so I have plenty of options to get away with God.

Last week for my retreat day, I planned a hike in Albion Basin near Alta Ski Resort. It's the peak of wildflower season in the canyons so I hiked the 3 miles up to Cecret Lake surrounded by columbine, lupin, and black-eyed susans. While hiking, I listened to a collection of the Songs of Ascent- fifteen psalms that were sung by early Jewish worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem for pilgrimage festivals.

Today's devotional is focused on one of the Songs of Ascent, Psalm 121. Read this short psalm or consider downloading Dwell- a new app for listening to the Bible.

PSALM 121

My Help Comes from the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

  1. Read the psalm two or three times. As you read it, which words or phrases stick out to you the most? Why do you think they strike you?
  2. Imagine you are one of the Jewish people walking to Jerusalem with your community for one of the festivals at the temple. What would you be thinking or feeling as you sang these words? 
  3. The psalmists sings about God being our helper and keeping us from evil. How do you reconcile that with the suffering and evil we experience in the world?

CLOSING REFLECTION

Hiking upwards of 2000 feet for 3 miles isn't easy. My obliques, hips and quads were feeling the burn at just a mile in. Plus, starting out the hike at 8,500 means there isn't much oxygen to replenish my hardworking lungs. Listening to the Songs of Ascent, especially Psalm 121, was deeply moving for me.

Since my junior year in college, I've struggled with anxiety and depression. Being in the depth of a depressive episode is one of the most miserable experiences I've ever had. Feelings of worthlessness and suffocating sadness dominate your days until the "fog" of depression lifts.

It's clear in Scripture that God does not promise that our lives will be easy if we follow him. In fact, God clearly says that we will experience hardship because of our decision to align our lives with His. In this song, God is not promising that we won't experience pain, evil, and suffering in our lives. What God is promising is that he will be present and deeply involved with us when we experience suffering in our lives. He isn't suprised when we experience evil, he isn't "asleep" to the pain we deal with. He is with us and he will give us what we need to overcome whatever brokenness we experience in our lives. 

Like the pain & pleasure of hiking, my life is a filled with both suffering because of sin and evil in the world and also "scenic views" of the beauty and blessing that God gives me each day. Will I trust that God is with me in it all? That he is hiking the same hike with me and that it will all end with the beauty of life in his Kingdom?

This is God's challenge for us today: May we trust that God is with us in the beauty and brokenness of our everday lives and that He will make all things good and right in His Kingdom.

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