When Patience is Challenging
How long, O God? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? (Psalm 13:1-2; read Psalm 13 in its entirety.)
The Psalms cover the full range of emotions and religious feelings. God is ever-present and yet there are moments of divine absence not unlike those of the fabled Job, who loses everything, including the companionship of God.
How long will you hide, O God? These are tough words, even among those who are among the privileged as the Psalmist was. Educated, affluent, and comparatively powerful, the Psalmist nevertheless felt alienated from God. Most of us are privileged economically and socially, and yet may feel bereft, alone, and without divine support.
Psalm 13 is a reminder that we can take everything to God in prayer. We can come to God just as we without pretense. While we aim at excellence and integrity, we often fall short. While we seek wholeness, we are often confronted by our imperfections. While we seek God’s presence, the quest often seems fruitless.
Still, God is with us, in what we perceive to be God’s absence. Like the person described in the poem “Footprints,” the Psalmist discovers that when he sees only one set of footprints on the sand, he is being carried by God. As Carl Jung asserted, bidden or not, noticed or not, God is here.
For the Psalmist, as we shall see in Psalm 139, it is more important that God knows us, supporting us, than that we know God. God’s love for us doesn’t depend on the quality of our faith – faithful or not, we are in God’s care. For even the darkness is light to God, and in that dazzling light, we will find our way.
Be present in what we perceive is your absence. Help me trust that you are with me in darkness and light. Help me place my whole life – faith and doubt – in your care. Amen.
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, professor, and author of over 50 books including FAITH IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC, GODONLINE: A MYSTIC’S GUIDE TO THE INTERNET, and PROCESS THEOLOGY: EMBRACING ADVENTURE WITH GOD.