Do you know that God likes to play games? God of course loves Monopoly, and why not – he owns everything, right? God also loves to play Clue (“Samson in the cave with the jawbone”), because rather than just come right out and tell us what’s going to happen in our lives, he drops little hints, and speaks in quiet whispers.
And he loves to play hide and seek. How many of you have ever experienced a time when God suddenly disappeared on you? And you searched everywhere to find him. But nothing. And then one day there he showed up again. That’s hide and seek.
Everyone has experienced this with God at one time or another. And actually, all joking aside, it’s not a lot of fun when this happens. St. John of the Cross, a 16th century monk called it, “the dark night of the soul”. So what are you supposed to do when you find yourself playing hide and seek with God.
The writer of Psalms 42 and 43 (in all likelihood, King David) describes going through just such a time with the Lord. And in these two psalms (which are actually one song), David composes three different verses, each with a lesson on how we should respond when God
In verses 1 to 4, the first thing David would encourage us to do is look back in the past with gratitude.
After taking a few verses to describe the dejection he feels, David writes, “These things I remember as I pour out my soul, how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”
Since he doesn’t find God nearby in the present, he comforts himself by calling to mind a time in the past – when he was leading Israel in worship – when he felt God right by his side.
The problem with us, is we’re so forgetful. God brings us through a trying circumstance, and our hearts are filled with praise at his faithfulness. That is, until the next time things fall apart. And then we’re grumbling and grousing all over again. With us, it’s usually God, what have you done for us lately. With David, it was God, what have you done for us. Period. And he trains his mind to remember those times.
Because God has shown his faithfulness in our lives again and again, a person wise and mature in the Lord would say when God disappears for awhile, “You know, God you brought me through that last test, and so now that I find myself between a rock and a hard place again, I’m going to choose to trust you.” (If you know the song: You made a way when there was no way, and I believe I’ll see you do it again.)
How do we keep from forgetting? Back in the days of Samuel, there was a time that God brought Israel through a clear and present danger, and Samuel built a stone altar of remembrance to the Lord and named it “Ebenezer” a Hebrew words meaning Stone of help. The idea was that in a time when God didn’t seem close, you’d look at that altar and say to yourself, “Lord, up till this point you have helped me. So I choose to trust you’ll help me now.”
In our recent move, as Janis and I packed up our things, we looked afresh at several Ebenezers we have had on display in our house. A plaque from the church we served in London. A quilt from our church in Connecticut. A bottle of Dom Perignon from when I was in seminary (a reminder of how God brought us through those lean years, and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. But studying Hebrew is enough to drive you to drink, just saying.)
You, child of God, should set up Ebenezers in your home. Not of the Scrooge variety (you probably already have a couple of those running around your house). But surround yourself with visual reminders to you of God’s faithfulness in days gone by, so that the next time things get tough – and they will, because that’s life – you’ll remember God’s faithfulness, and not lose hope.
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.