“Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me in days of distress!
Incline your ear to me,
answer me. speedily in the day when I call!” — Psalms 102:1–2.
I just read this Psalm and today, this is a particular piece of Scripture that speaks to me. The Psalm comes from an afflicted person in crisis. In the Psalm, the author asks God to “hear my prayer” and begs God in a human way, one that speaks of the voice of a human being rather than a robot.
The Psalmist shows that he hasn’t seen God recently. He is suffering greatly. He has been distressed and doesn’t know what the future calls. The first two verses of Psalms 102 is a cry for help to God, and a desperate one at that.
As Christians, we need to be in need. We need to be desperate for God, and especially in crisis-filled times like this with COVID-19.
I spend a lot of time in the trenches. Teaching in the inner-city, sometimes it is hard to see how God can let some of my kids have gone through the trauma they’ve gone through at such a young age, from severe drug addiction to death to homelessness. I have consulted thoroughly with my student’s old teacher, who has expressed that some days, it’s hard to see the face of God in our students.
And yet I have to be reminded that I deserve the mistreatment I may get. I am chief among sinners, as Paul once said in 1 Timothy 1:15. In this time of COVID-19, the Coronavirus, and school closings, I am grateful. I am grateful to get a break from the daily traumas myself and my kids go through, and I’m likewise grateful to finally get some time to relax.
While social distancing may mean loving my neighbor, my desire to simply be rid of my love of my students and work at school is not loving my neighbor. It’s a different world right now that’s causing Christ’s world to turn upside down. I have joked to my friends that being a good member of society now has been turned upside down, that by staying home, watching TV and playing video games, I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to do.
God, however, does not care for our norms or trends. What God does care about, however, is how much we need Him and how close we feel to him. You cannot have a close relationship with God if you don’t need God. How many times per day do we think we can get through the day without God? How many things in our lives do we not thank God for, that we think we can get through without God?
Think about the last time you were successful at something. Who did you attribute your success to? If you’re like any American, you attributed your success to yourself. You think it was all you, that you were just all that and your personal merit and aptitude granted you success. The American dream preaches that notion to us all.
But what about your resources? How did you get them? What about your skills? Who or what taught them to you? The truth is that you got lucky, and it was God that made you lucky. We have a sovereign God, and that means God is responsible for all of our successes and failures,
God is not one of prosperity. The law of linearity in Prosperity Gospel dictates that when we pray for something, a real God would give it to us. But that is not how God works. We pray, but it is His will that dictates what happens, not our will. Prayer is about relationship, not outcomes, and crying out to God is an essential first step in prayer.
It can become really easy as a Christian to see being distant from God and doubting as a bad thing. But I am here to tell you that it is not. Distance and doubt are bad things if we can’t reconcile them — but I personally have felt distant ever since the start of the year when I spent a lot of time in the trenches as an inner-city teacher. I asked God how he could let so many families and so many children go through severe poverty, addiction, and homelessness?
Right now, it can be easy to doubt with a pandemic we haven’t seen on this scale in a century. God uses medical expertise and human form in His love, but how about the evil? How about churches that still gather in large proportions and put lives at risk, all in the false testament to the Gospel? How about people who continue to flout social distancing convention and get other people at risk? How about the people who still murder and kill even when we’re supposed to be on quarantine.
It is the Genesis 50:20 rule that what man intended for evil, God intended for good. We must be reminded that we are not any better people than the people we criticize — even though a public magnifying glass is not on us, who are we to judge when we can be selfish, vain, self-serving, and downright hurtful?
“Bear one another’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” Paul tells us in Galatians 6:2. As Christians, we succeed and fail and follow Christ together. Respect boundaries and know that God has a plan for everyone, but feel the successes and failures of your friends together, even the ones who aren’t believers, as a member and a body of Christ. God will work through friends. He will work through nonbelievers, and He will work for you.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ,” Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 12:12.
God is in control. We are not. That doesn’t mean we don’t have free will and we’re just puppets, but God acts through our actions and deeds. So let’s stop trying to resist — and let God take the wheel, and trust Him not matter what.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.” — Proverbs 3:5–6.