Ever get confused when circumstances don't seem to line up with God's promises? I do. In fact, I not only get confused, but I can get discouraged too.
Like when Psalm 105 says to "seek the Lord and his strength" (v.4) because he promises to be "the Lord our God" (v.7) who "remembers his covenant forever" (v.8). That's a big deal. The psalmist is referring to an "everlasting covenant" God made with Abraham and his descendants (vv.8-11). It sounds pretty encouraging! And I'm super grateful that God has welcomed me into an everlasting covenant with him through the faith I have in Jesus.
But wait a minute... The psalmist then suddenly starts talking about God summoning "a famine on the land" in which Abraham's descendants were living (v.17). A famine summoned by God? What's up with that? What happened to that blissful "everlasting covenant"?
Questions like these pop into my mind when things go wrong – when things go sideways – or when I just can't reconcile my circumstances with what God promised me. Maybe you wonder the same.
Oh, but it gets worse! ...Or so it seems. One of Abraham's descendants (Joseph) is betrayed and sold into slavery as "the Lord tested him" (vv.17-19). Wow. God's wonderful covenant is followed by famine, slavery, and testing. That's not what I thought I signed up for in my covenant-relationship with Jesus.
But the truth is that being in a covenant with God doesn't mean there'll be no troubles, because it seems that God sends troubles as tests. And testing isn't a sign of God's disapproval, but a means to growth in the midst of God's covenant promises.
In other words, God tests his children in the context of covenant. That's why troubles don't mean God is distant, but can actually be a sign of God's love as he helps us to grow.
I'm personally experiencing a time of testing right now, and I can feel tempted to get discouraged. But the tests that Joseph went through were meant to make him ready for God's purposes to be fulfilled in his life. The famine and the slavery were ordained by God to further the will of God in Joseph's life and in the lives of people around him.
So when we face troubles in life, rather than doubting God's love and promises, this psalm encourages us to embrace such circumstances as tests to help us to grow in our trust and dependence on God. Nobody grows without testing. And testing happens in the context of an eternal covenant – like being in the arms of God as he gives us a difficult exam to write.
So exam Question #1 is: What circumstance are you facing right now that seems contrary to God's promises? Whatever the answer, Question #2 is: What character trait is God trying to help me to grow in right now. Bingo. Now it's our turn to ask our loving Father to help us to grow in that area by his great grace in our lives!
© 2023 Ken Peters