Yesterday we started looking at the dilemma of having ongoing, significant disagreement with God. Especially in the context of also relating to an abusive person who claims to be always right. There are a number of psalms and stories in the Bible that share this dilemma, and we particularly looked at Psalm 77.

I have some intense areas of disagreement with God. I’m not saying he’s in the wrong. I cannot put the pieces together in a way that makes sense, and in that dissonance is turmoil.

Turmoil is a flexible word. Technically, when you stir a cup of tea, the little swirls left by the spoon are turmoil, (well, more correctly, “turbulence”). So is a hurricane. It’s the same scientific process. But it’s much easier to hear that “still small voice” when you are dealing with a cup of tea. Less so in a maelstrom. Yet – God is my friend, and aware of the noise.

We can race through the whole of Psalm 77 in a matter of minutes. Asaph took who knows how many hours just to get past the first few lines. Hours. And if it takes days? Weeks? Months? Years? God is the essence of patience.

You kept my eyes from closing, 1

Asaph says,

I was too troubled to speak, 2

before eventually finding a voice inside him that gently prodded:

Has God forgotten to be merciful? 3

There is hope in asking that question. Current reality may be insanely torturous. However, despite appearances, it is actually the same universe in which God has proven trustworthy again and again.

Asaph remembers the Israelites. Running for their lives, all of them. The whole community. From the smallest child to the most elderly. Trying to escape centuries of slavery and abuse at the hands of the Egyptians. And trapped. Surrounded on every side by a powerful army. That was the situation at the Red Sea. Themselves just slaves. And with the ocean at their back, it was a situation with no hope. Nothing they could do.

And in that situation, God told them there was nothing they needed to do. Just be still, while he took care of things. 4 Simple.

Simple. Are you kidding me?? Be still? Hearts pounding, terrified for their lives, or a return to the abuse. Perhaps not knowing which outcome would be worse. And yet God does say, “I’ve got this.”

I’ve often thought that if one were to imagine any way in which the Israelites would have escaped from this situation, no one would imagine them walking across the floor of the ocean. Some miraculous path through the Egyptian army would have been easier to believe. Their situation truly was impossible. It took a miracle to get them out of there. Neither was the offered solution comfortable. Plenty of us would have had encountered situations in the past where our brains knew we would be fine, but our nervous systems did not. (Abseiling anyone?) Imagine now, when your anxiety is already peaking for fear of your life, or of return to abuse, that some invisible force is holding back walls of water and you need to walk between them. That is: as far as you can tell, nothing is holding them back. This is exactly what happened.

Your path led through the sea,

your way through the mighty waters,

though your footprints were not seen. 5

We can’t tell what was behind all this for Asaph. Something caused intense distress. Was it a short-term problem or long-term? Who knows? There were others, like Hannah, who suffered year after year.

Part of being made in God’s image means we know, somewhere inside us, his character. Many people in the Bible struggled with waiting long times for God to intervene. But this is a friendship worth fighting for. No matter how intense the struggles or disagreements. To somehow retain the awareness that he hasn’t actually abandoned us, that he does still care. And that, very much. There is some way in which it makes sense. We just don’t know what it is.

This is the essence of trust. One of my favourite psalms is Psalm 42, and when thinking about our internal lives and connection with God – especially verse 7:

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. 6

We are made in his image. That’s amazing. I don’t just mean beautiful, but that there is deep strength there in each of us. In a relationship with a deeply trustworthy friend, even when we have strong disagreement over something important, it is worth hanging on for resolution. The very opposite of disagreeing with someone who is unsafe.

Hannah had the perspective of someone who suffered confusing, excruciating trauma and disagreement with God for years – while he seemed silent. Her perspective once her situation finally changed was that it was worth hanging on. That God could be trusted. She did not seem to have forgotten how hard her journey had been.

I’m struggling to finish this piece because I feel so much for those who are suffering. Each person’s journey with suffering is unique. But here is an invitation to hang in there with God, even if that means yelling at him a lot. Those who followed that path in scripture seem to be celebrated.

Steve Wade

PS This is part of a series on the turmoil involved with the trauma of abuse. Coming up we will be looking at the story of Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and Jesus. It’s one of the most beautiful stories of deep friendship and respect that I know.

Hannah had the perspective of someone who suffered confusing, excruciating trauma and disagreement with God for years – while he seemed silent. Share on X

 

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 77:4
  2. Psalm 77:4
  3. Psalm 77:9
  4. Exodus 14:14
  5. Psalm 77:19
  6. Psalm 42:7

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