Battling Life

I’m reading a book right now about midlife crisis.

There, I said it!

I don’t know what’s harder to admit:  that I’m at that point in life that we call “midlife”, or that that I’m reading a book about “midlife crisis”.

Actually, I’m reading this book along with a friend of mine who is going through a bit more of a crisis in his midlife, but we’re both at essentially the same life stage.  The title of the book is “Lost in the Middle – Midlife and the Grace of God”, written by Paul David Tripp.

One of the points he makes is that the Psalms give us a reality check that the Christian life is not about living on beds of roses.  Many of the Psalms shock us with their honesty and their constant refrain that the Christian life is not always about being neat and easy.

One of the psalms Tripp uses to illustrate this is Psalm 88.  This is one of those psalms that after reading it, I have found myself asking, “why in the world is this in the Bible?”  The writer of Psalm 88 laments over the evil and darkness that is over him, and bemoans the suffering that is so real and so incessant in his life.  Several psalms do this, but most of them end with conclusion of praising God.  Not Psalm 88.  Psalm 88 does not get all tied-up with warm fuzzy feelings like a thirty minute sitcom.  Its messy and its dark, all the way through.

Read it for yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

What I’d like to share with you this morning, is some of Paul David Tripp’s comments about Psalm 88 from this book.  I would encourage you to first read Psalm 88, and then come back here and read the following:

Psalm 88 confronts us with the fact that God is not after what we are after, or this Psalm would not be in the Bible.  If God were exercising his awesome power to deliver you personal satisfaction and pleasure, then Psalm 88 would be an embarrassing testament to his complete failure.  Psalm 88 calls us to confess humbly that we tend to live self-absorbed lives.  We think that a comfortable life is a happy life.  We want situations, relationships, and the surrounding creation to provide the pleasure that we seek, and we are disappointed, discouraged, or angry when they don’t deliver.  God is, in fact, working on our happiness and satisfaction, but it is of a higher order, and one that is only attainable when we have forsaken our own glory and learned to live in constant pursuit of his.

Psalm 88 also calls us to be honest.  We have cried out to God and wondered if he has heard.  We have felt like we were singled out particularly for suffering.  We have gone through times when we have felt friendless.  The struggle has not only been physical, relational, and circumstantial, but also intensely spiritual.  We too have questioned God’s presence, faithfulness, and love.  We have second-guessed his plan.  At times we have been tempted to wonder who is really in control.  Beneath the “I’m fine, how are you?” veneer of Sunday greetings, we have all faced the hardship of the already-not-yet place where God has called us to live until all is prepared for our final destination.

We need a Christianity that gets beneath sugary greetings and theological platitudes and boldly takes the richness of redemption to the realities of what we daily face.  We need a faith that stands in the middle of Psalm 88, unshocked and unafraid, and we need to confess how far we are from a Christianity that is just that sturdy.

I pray that the Lord will build in me a sturdy faith that measures up to that standard, and I pray that He does so with our church as well.

Have a God-glorifying Friday!

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