A previously posted article
by Dennis Ensor
We studied the 88th Psalm in our local Bible class last Sunday morning. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the writer was having a really bad day when he penned the words you find there. Listen to his weary cry of despair.
1 GOD, you’re my last chance of the day. I spend the night on my knees before you.
2 Put me on your salvation agenda; take notes on the trouble I’m in.
3 I’ve had my fill of trouble; I’m camped on the edge of hell.
4 I’m written off as a lost cause, one more statistic, a hopeless case.
5 Abandoned as already dead, one more body in a stack of corpses, And not so much as a gravestone— I’m a black hole in oblivion.
6 You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit, sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
7 I’m battered senseless by your rage, relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
8 You turned my friends against me, made me horrible to them. I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
9 blinded by tears of pain and frustration. I call to you, GOD; all day I call. I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Psalm 88:1-9 (MSG)
Maybe “dire straits” is a better way to describe the day (week, month or year) being experienced by the writer of those words.
During class time the teacher commented “no doubt many of you in this audience have been awake at two in the morning, down on your knees seeking some sort of relief, be it financial, physical, mental, spiritual or whatever kind of help. You were desperate for your heavenly Father to bring you relief.”
To that comment I internally responded, “Yes!! I have!!” And I would bet that most of you who are reading this post would answer in the affirmative as well. Perhaps you are struggling mightily with burdensome issues right now. If so, my heart goes out to you.
As class progressed, my mind sort of drifted off while I pondered the opposite image of the Psalm and the desperation it revealed. I thought, “What if God answered everyone’s prayers exactly as they wanted?” It sounded really good at first. I and my loved ones would never have financial problems or health problems or relationship problems. No one in the world would ever go hungry. Everyone would work exactly as much or as little as they wanted. All could travel as much as they wanted. Everyone’s needs would be met. There would be no problems.
Of course I’ve seen what happens to kids when they get everything they want, and it seldom, if ever, turns out well. They are generally the most spoiled obnoxious kids around. They don’t respect or care about other people’s property nor even the people themselves. They don’t generally turn out to be productive adults either–pretty miserable and “worthless” in fact. And they train the next generation, by their example, to be worse than they were themselves.
And it dawned on me that the only way to appreciate the really good things is to have to endure some really bad things. The only way to appreciate the light is to experience the dark. And though some people would gladly work because they know the joy that work can bring, many others have demonstrated that they will do all they can to get out of work unless there is just no alternative. So who would be serving the food or flying the planes or hauling the trash or growing the crops or fulfilling all of the needs of those whose prayers were being answered?
After pondering it awhile, I decided that we would all be pretty miserable if God answered all of our prayers in the affirmative. True character building comes from the hard times in our lives. And as James tells us, true joy comes from our suffering.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4 (NIV)
With that in mind, my prayer is that God will do whatever it takes to help me grow into a wonderful, loving, mature pillar of faith so that, in the end–come what may–I will have humbly made a positive difference in the lives I had encountered and would have ultimately been able to hear those wonderful words, “Well done my good and faithful servant. . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21 (NIV)
And that is the prayer I utter for you, dear readers, as well. May God bless you abundantly as you persevere through thick and thin to the end.
Copyright © 2012, Dennis Ensor, All Rights Reserved. Bible scripture taken from New International Version and The Message.
Dennis Ensor is the author of three books: Texas Pioneer Chronicles: The Life and Times of the Ensor, Kelso and Crim Families Since 1856, The Good News From God: A Fresh Perspective on The Bible, Christianity, Church and Life (which can be downloaded, free of charge from the Breath of Life website), and his newest offering, Taking Another Look at New Testament Christianity (which he recommends to all his Christian friends. Go to tal.dennisensor.com for a free preview of the book.) These are available at any time from Amazon.com.