From Olivia McGuire
It’s pretty amazing how often I have to learn (and then re-learn) things the hard way – particularly when it comes to spiritual things. I suppose we’re all like that, to an extent, but still – I never cease to surprise myself with my own capacity to forget.
I work in college ministry, so during the summers, when I’m not having nearly as many spiritual conversations, it never takes long for me to start feeling spiritually dry. Because I’m not teaching someone else about their identity in Christ, it seems I quickly forget my own. Once classes are over, I find that suddenly, I feel entitled to rest and fun, and I’m so exhausted from serious conversations; I just want to be “normal” and not think constantly about spiritual things. But after a few days of being whatever “normal” happens to mean to me at the moment, I feel pretty awful and off kilter and ready to turn back. So Psalm 78 sounds all too familiar to me.
The ironic part is that during the school year, I’m constantly watching my students make mistakes and struggle with sin, and part of my role is to call them out and call them back. I myself feel that “again and again” I am “put to the test” (vs. 41) -- I feel frustrated and betrayed by them when they at one moment voluntarily profess a high level of commitment to our ministry, and then at the first sign of a time constraint, they don’t hesitate to break that commitment. My patience is often stretched thin, and I get angry, and it is all I can do, sometimes, to not lash out at them. How hard (and sanctifying) it must be, to be a parent. How good it is that I am not God.
Psalms like this one are hard because God’s anger, and the destruction that seems to arise out of it, are scary and unpleasant images at best. But the practice of remembering both his patience and his authority to punish are critical components of the overall work of remembering who He is. Fortunately we know how the story ends, and we can be confident in the ultimate restoration that we are promised as God’s people – but even in this text, God is ultimately revealed to be a God of provision and mercy, who provides a ruler in David , who “shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (vs. 72).
My hope is that as we read this piece of Scripture today, we would not be discouraged or burdened by it, but would remember who God ultimately is and what He ultimately does – that even as we encounter the details of the story, we would know we can trust the end of the story as our own, as the inheritance marked out for us. May we know that He is always moving us from death to life, and that as often as we forget Him, we are always invited to remember again.