By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? Psalm 137:1-4
“I Am Not The Only One”
I can’t help it. Every time I read Psalm 137 my heart rips apart. I know exactly how the Psalmist felt, as well as the many who sought consolation from these words in knowing “I am not the only one.”
Our captors and tormentors asked for songs and mirth – In my own captivity, I am asked to perform and function at a soul-destroying job.
How could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? – How can I continue to throw myself into meaningless and nothingness? Into a situation where I am reminded Mon-Fri during the best hours of the day that my life is nothing, that my life is going nowhere?
Google “hate my job” and you will be surprised at the many descriptions used to describe the dilemma. Here are only a few:
- soul-crushing boredom
- if you don’t leave you’re pretty sure you’re going to lose your mind
- when you hate your job with every fiber of your being
- desperately drowning in a job you can’t stand
- stuck in a job that makes you feel like your life is going nowhere
- hating a job can cause you to disengage. Disengagement can cause you to have a lesser sense of well-being
- bogged down in feelings of misery
- you’re not crazy. Being stuck in a job you can’t stand is always depressing and it’s even worse when you can’t see a way out
- makes you dread waking up in the morning
- literally makes you cry the moment you think about it
Job Hating Is A Tough Place For God’s Children
Some may disagree, but I believe the “job hating” scenario is much harder for God’s children. When a person places their faith and trust in God, then that person views all of their life through the lens of being in relationship with God. And when God doesn’t come through? It’s a double whammy and then some.
I confess being mad at God about the whole job situation. Honestly, extremely angry is a better description. I have prayed. I have trusted. I have prayed. I have trusted. And for many years—nothing.
Even though I am grateful for a way to earn a living, still I have prayed for another way. In fact, having multiple jobs instead of this one job is an example of many suggestions that I have given God to think about.
Most of the time my prayers go something like this: God, please open a door, please! Please do something! Anything! Please get me out! And on and on it goes.
But, silence. Deafening silence. And so, I admit it, I admit being mad at God, off and on, for many years.
Today has been one of those worst than usual days when everything inside, outside, and around me says plainly that He doesn’t care. And if I dare tell someone that I’m mad at God because He doesn’t answer my desperate pleas for a new job, I get gasps of disbelief, shock, and the occasional look of horror.
These feelings that God doesn’t care are really felt, but they are not indicative of the “realness” of things with God. It’s difficult to articulate a seemingly blasphemous stance like “being mad at God” to another person. In reality, it’s a poor effort to seek comfort and consolation, a signal of understanding, but the gasps tell it all.
The Downward Spiral That Leads To Getting Mad At God
While reading a sermon from Helmut Thielicke’s book, How the World Began, he as usual articulated a difficult concept perfectly. Not so much about getting mad at God, but about the downward spiraling sequence of events leading to a place where it is easy to get mad at God. And I thought “Finally! Someone who gets it and doesn’t gasp in disbelief.”
Thielicke told of a time in his twenties when he was very sick and confined to a wheelchair for 7 years. Otherwise he had been healthy. (this was in the 1930’s) Here is the sequence:
- Prayed and asked for healing
- Asked God “why is this happening?”
- He thought if he knew the answer to “why?” the worst would be over because he would know the meaning.
- He theorized that “God desires to make me more mature, more obedient, and more agreeable through suffering.”
- Still nothing.
- He decided the theory didn’t work. “For there is a degree of physical suffering that simply prevents any kind of reflection and demands that one expend all his energy merely to endure it and get through it.”
- He began to think that finally he had been tested and refined enough. That now he had “graduated from the school of suffering and secured his certificate of maturity.”
- Still nothing
- The suffering goes on anyhow
- Still nothing
- The suffering continues “And then there is no meaning at all and even time and endlessness speak against God.”
- Still absolutely nothing
- “So it is by no means true that affliction teaches us to pray. Just as truly it teaches us to curse.”
Thielicke hits the nail on the head in this description of suffering. On point in my experience is “all energy is expended on getting through it and enduring it. And it continues and it is MEANINGLESS. Time and endlessness speak against God.”
And this IS the place—”Just as truly it teaches us to curse.” This is where it is so easy to become fighting mad at God.
The only One who can help and nothing.
Then Thielicke reaches a breakthrough:
For at the very point where I cannot understand, at the very point where the world “divided by reason never comes out even, the urgent question arises whether I can simply trust that God has a purpose in mind for me, that he is realizing His higher thoughts in the very thing which in my thought must necessarily be meaningless.
Questions To Ask When I Cannot Understand God’s Silence
- Can I simply trust?
- Can I trust that God has a purpose in mind for me?
- Can I trust that God is realizing His higher thoughts in the thing that is totally meaningless in my thoughts?
- Can I trust that God is somehow working something out in this YEARS long suffering and ordeal that is sucking away any joy in my life?
Let me be honest. I’m working on it.
Think about this one word—trust? And how do you do it 24/7 amid suffering and anguish? How do you do it when there is nothing left?
Have you ever been at this point? Are you at this point now?
Are you seeking answers, relief, consolation, coping mechanisms, support, community, prayer, and probably a whole host of other things? There has to be an answer when, because of the question, a person is completely empty and unable to hope, wish, desire, or trust on their own.
Romans 4:17-22 tells us how Abraham kept hoping even when there was absolutely no reason for hope. Reflect on this passage. Leave a comment sharing how this passage helps you in your current situation. Encouragement comes through community and your words are sure to touch another’s heart.
Until Next Time—
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14
p.s. Thielicke was eventually healed from the disease that put him in a wheelchair. An innovation in medicine that he just happened to hear about… Trust.