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Dealing with suffering - Ps77

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Dealing with suffering - Ps77- Plus Mk 15:33-39

In August our family went to the Netherlands, for family visits and holidays....We have a flat there....and we know quite a number of our neighbours.

After our arrival we met several of them....and caught up with their stories....

It seemed as if everybody was coping with some form of illness....or bereavement...

My neighbour opposite, who seemed to be OK in June, was in hospital for lung-cancer. He died 3 weeks ago....and I did his funeral...

Our neighbours on the left....were still mourning the loss of their baby daughter of 9 months....this happened 3 months ago.....

Another neighbour was mourning a miscarriage....and so on and so forth.....So much suffering....illness....disappointment....I am also thinking of the suffering in our midst...

How does God fit into all of this?....Where is God in our suffering??.....Let us pray.....

PRAYER....Dear God Heavenly Father...You know our burdens....our disappointments.

Lord, we pray for your comfort..... your guidance.... your healing.....

We pray that you open your Word...that it may be life for us...

We pray that you send your Spirit....to help us understand....to comfort....and to heal........and we ask this in Jesus name.....AMEN

There is so much sufferring and disappointment....How do people cope??....

Roughly....there are 2 ways......Coping WITH God.....or WITHOUT God......

I really feel for people who do not know God..... who have to go through suffering by themselves....

The worst are funerals where people are gathered who have no faith.....It seems so utterly bleak....so hope-less....

Such situations can be opportunities to reach out in love....to help....to pray with them.....to share the hope we have in Jesus....

BUT: 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...

But even if we have faith....even if we know the Lord Jesus....even then we might wonder what all this suffering ...illness....and disappointment is about.

Maybe we pray....but seem to get no answer.....Where is God??...

If you are asking such questions.....you are not alone!....

As we read through the Bible....and aspecially as we read the Psalms..... we see people crying out to God with their complaint.......and with their praise.....

The Psalms are full of this....and this morning we want to look at Ps 77....I hope you have a Bible open in front of you....if not....there are more copies at the back....Ps 77 PAGE 589....plenty of rain this Psalm aswell...vs. 17....so we feel right at home :-)

PSALM 77....HOW do we involve God in our troubles and pain??

There is a particular shape to this Psalm. It starts fairly low....goes even lower.....before it picks up....and goes firmly higher .....a bit of a U shape.....

Over the holidays I read somewhere that happiness is U-shaped.

The article claimed that research had been done, examining millions of people.....and it appears that you are more likely to be happy when you are young....or old....than when you are middle-aged.

For men....this apparently is most pronounced....and the low-point is at the age of 44. Having just turned that tender age myself.....I guess that is good news.....the only way is up....

The Psalm also has a bit of a U shape to it.....starting fairly low....but than going even deeper....with asking several anxious questions about God ...vv 7-9....with a turning point in vs. 10.....moving from AGONY and COMPLAINT to praise at the end of the Psalm.....

The psalm opens with the problems the psalmist is facing....the focus is on....I...I...I...[DOWN...literally].....but towards the end of the Psalm his focus has turned to YOU GOD.....[UP...literally]

Let's see how the psalmist copes with his suffering

The Psalm opens with a COMPLAINT about unanswered prayer

1-2 I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.

Crying out to God.....but God does not seem to hear....

I am so GLAD this is in the Bible....

The portrayal of Christians where everything is always hunkey dory [thumbs up].....Christianity which always seems victorious....is just not real.....and is not biblical!

Because it is not the faith...and the faith experience we see in the Bible at ALL!!.....

All sorts of emotions can be found in the Bible....JOY...Gratitude.....but also sorrow...and complaint....

Especially when you read the Psalms....people regularly POUR OUT their complaint to God....It is called LAMENT....and it is a form of worship....coming to God with our complaints....and burdens....and offering them to Him...

Church is an awful place...if only happiness and joy are allowed.....

Church has to be a place where we can be real with one another......where we can be HONEST....Where we can share both our joys.....and our deep pains and disappointments.....and bring them to God...

And that is also something we want to do a bit later in this service....

From that experience of unaswered prayer....the person starts to ask anxious questions about God....in vv 7-9

Sometimes when I visit people in difficult situations....they ask painful and difficult questions about God....

Sometimes such questions are not meant to be answered....they just have to be asked.....And the same is true here.....

7 "Will the Lord reject for ever? Will he never show his favour again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished for ever? Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

These questions are not answered immediately....they are hanging there.....

For those who are NOT in the midst of the suffering such questions about God...almost seem unreasonable ....maybe even heretic.....but that does not matter.....God can cope!

As outsiders we are maybe tempted to answer such questions:

7 "Will the Lord reject for ever? ....No he will not....

8 Has his unfailing love vanished for ever? .....No it has not....

Has his promise failed for all time?.....No they have not.....

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? No he has not.....

All these answers are true....But the Psalm does not answer these questions.....just yet.....And when they are answered...they are answered by the person who is suffering himself!

As Christians...as believers in the Living God....we can ask such questions as well....it is OK....

Jesus asked such questions.......When Jesus was hanging on the cross in utter agony....he cried in a loud voice....[Mark 15:33-39] "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

words from Ps 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

Yes....the Psalms are full of wonderful praise.....our best hymns and worship songs come straight from the Psalms.....

But there is also plenty of LAMENT....complaint....difficult emotions and questions thrown up about God....and to God......

Ps 88...probably the darkest Psalm actually stops there.....no easy solutions there.....just LAMENT....Also In Ps 77....these questions are hanging there....

But then in Vs 10-12 there is turning point....

The person who is agony decides to turn his attention away from his trouble....and turn to God.....

10-12 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.

[NOTE TREVOR: note how the person himself is taking responsibility!!!]

And as a RESULT things change:

From being focussed on his problems....and on his un-answered prayers.....I...I...I.....He turns to YOU...God.....

13-15 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

With your mighty arm you redeemed your people...

If we face trouble of any kind....meditating on what God has done....reading God's word....It is amazing how God's word can speak to us....comfort us....build us up....every day....

This is also why it is so important to come together every Sunday to worship God together....where we meet together to bear eachothers burdens....something we can of course also do during the week.....being part of a homegroup....meet regularly with Christians friends...

It is so tempting....and I use that word advisedly....it is so tempting to saty home when we are suffering....

But especially on a Sunday we come together to meet as a fellowship....and to focus our attention TO HEAVEN...

The Psalmist meditates on the events surrounding the Exodus.....And as the Israelites would focus on God's great liberation from Egypt.....so we focus on God's mighty act of SALVATION through Jesus....

Jesus who entered into our suffering and death himself.....so that we could be set free....and have eternal life with him.....

Last Wednesday night I came down switched the TV on just before the 10 o'clock news....and zapped....

I came across a movie scene in a concentration camp...[I found out later it was called 'God on trial'....a very relevant broadcast for our topic this morning]....and I just switched it on when this question was raised..'what good is a God who suffers'?.....we need a God who sends the angel of death to our enemies'....Fair question. So...What good is a God who suffers??.......

[Mark 15:37-39] With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"

Jesus SUFFERED .....in order to open the way to the Father..so that everyone who turns to Jesus.....will receive his love and forgiveness.

Thanks be to God for the God who suffered....Jesus Christ....

And God's suffering is not quite finished yet.....God also partakes in our suffering right now.....till he returns...in all his power and glory.....to make an end to all suffering..

So in the Psalm there is a tremendous move from agony......and complaint....to praising God's MIGHTY ACTS...freeing his people from slavery.

18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.

19 Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.

I love that particular phrase.......though your footprints were not seen.....Our God is mighty....but accepting his acts remains an act of faith.....

We might think back to events in our lives....where we know for certain that a loving and mighty God intervened on our behalf....yet....his footprints remained unseen..

The Psalm closes as follows...Psalm 77:19-20 Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

God is the ONLY one who can set people free....Yet...often his footprints remain unseen.....God works through people...to work his acts of deliverance....healing and salvation...

And that is also true for us....God can use us....to bring hope....and healing to others.....We ourselves are not the source of hope or healing....Jesus is...and he can work for us and through us....by his Holy Spirit....

So...Psalm 77 shows a particular journey from agony....to praise

If you are facing difficulties of whatever sorts....What I am not saying is 'get over it'.....or 'move on'....you might not be ready for that yet...and that is OK...

What I AM saying is that we can bring everything.....ALL our questions....frustrations....disappointments.....TO GOD....to bring all our burdens to Jesus... to the foot of the cross....

In a moment....Simon and Sharon will lead us in worship and a time of prayer....where we can bring our questions...our praises...and our complaints to God.....

With God it is ALWAYS PERSONAL...He knows what you are going through....You can bring everything to the Lord....So let's be honest....with him....and with eachother....AMEN

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