Does God Help Us, or Not?

I recently noticed an apparent contraction in Scripture, and between Scripture and life. Here are my thoughts about it…

God Is Our Helper

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9

This verse is one example among hundreds teaching us that God cares about our troubles and helps us in our time of need. This is an essential part of the Christian understanding of who God is. The Bible teaches that God is compassionate and that He rules over all things with justice. We take comfort in knowing that He cares about our suffering, promises to help us, and will punish those who have a hand in causing it.

Or, Not?

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? – Psalm 10:1

So, in Psalm 9 the psalmist says God is a stronghold in times of trouble. A stronghold is a fortress, something we can take refuge in for protection. But in Psalm 10 the psalmist complains that God is hiding himself in times of trouble. Well, will God help me or not? Is He gonna be there for me, or not? Does he give a rip, or not? Can I depend on Him, or not? – A simple “yes” or “no” would be nice, thank you.

It’s Complicated

Life isn’t simple and a simple answer just won’t do. Yes, God is compassionate toward us. Yes, God is just, and will eventually carry out final justice – “eventually” as in, at the end of this age – a little longer than I’d prefer to wait. But experience proves that God doesn’t always help us when, how and to the extent we feel we need. Okay, let’s get real – God rarely helps us that way.

So, what’s going on?

I think the psalmist is living through the same averageness of life that we do. On one occasion he is full of faith, praising God for His protection. On another (maybe trouble seems more pressing now) he is waiting for help to come and wonders aloud, “God, where ARE you?” You know by experience that sometimes life works out way better than you could have expected, even sometimes, way better than you deserve (look deep inside now). We have no problem giving God credit for these rare blessings. But most of the time life just kind of works out. Sometimes it’s okay, sometimes not, sometimes awful, sometimes frustrating, or scary, or worse. Most of the time, it’s hard to see God’s hand.

So, What’s the Point?

Troubles force me to choose whether trusting God for the “eventually” will be the basic motivation of my life.

Trusting God in times of trouble is a choice: Will I trust that God sees, knows, cares and will eventually act even when He leaves me waiting… and waiting… and waiting? Troubles must come. I am born to them. If they don’t come, how else will I learn:

  • Wisdom to avoid trouble when I can?
  • Courage to face trouble when I can’t?
  • Integrity when a “white lie” could make the situation go away?
  • Patience to endure trouble even when I don’t understand its purpose?
  • Compassion to help another who is waiting for help?

Most importantly, without troubles how will I ever learn that only God is great? Life is average so that I’ll learn to pursue Him, trust Him, love Him. Love this life too much and I’ll eventually lose it and Him. But, love God more than my average life and I’ll get Him along with an eternal, not average life thrown in.

Until then, the psalmist and I must choose.

God help me to trust that You are great, even when life isn’t.