Sometimes family can seem so stressful and overwhelming that we struggle to find hope. Strained relationships and challenging circumstances discourage our day-to-day lives. Yet, hope is an ever present theme throughout scripture and particularly in the psalms. We read about peace in the midst of trial as well as joy in a new day. There is hope in the relenting from sin and in God’s forgiveness of our sins. And then there is hope in God himself, who knows, works, relents, draws in, and protects. God provides hope to those who also struggle.
In Psalm 71, for example, the author mentions a myriad of struggles. The pain experienced when he was younger still torments him to this day. The words spoken and actions taken against his life still have a firm grip on his heart affecting him deeply. He also struggles with the frailties that come as one gets older. Yet as we read about these pains and emotions that are an ever-present part of his life, he declares that God provides his refuge. His hope in the presence and work of God surpasses the pain of past and current afflictions.
The psalmist presents a convicting focus that can guide us through the pain. Pain can become our measure for all things. Because of the pain, because of the feelings, because the affliction feels ever-present, the struggle becomes our first and last thought. It dominates our day dreams and tends to find its way into our conversations, thoughts, and plans. It’s a negative and nagging presence that affects our routines, consumes our minds, and leads to the break down of our spirits. It’s as if while in the midst of our struggles there is nothing else but that pain. All memories of times without the pain are forgotten. But what about the ever-present joy that we also have? Do we recognize that God has also been present throughout all of our challenges? What about the proclamation that no matter where we go or where we’ve been God is with us? That while in the midst of the affliction, I wasn’t alone because he was with me?
I personally struggle with a health condition that will never go away. It is a daily struggle for me that I cannot ignore. There are times when the pain overwhelms and I am frustrated and annoyed, lost in a feeling of helplessness. There are times when my pain and emotions become all-consuming to the point where I can think of nothing else but this moment and this pain. Because of the pain and frustration, annoyance can overtake me and push away all the blessings that might otherwise be found in the moment. I recognize that pain is temporary, yet it has this amazing ability to take over and push joys, blessings, and hope aside.
The psalmist reminds us that God is faithful in all times. God knitted me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and knows all the hairs on my head as well as my pains and afflictions. As we get older, and our bodies begin to break down, we recognize all the more that God has always been with us as our ever-present guide. Even though our bodies have struggled, the TRUE consistency in all things has been God himself. Hope (and grace as Paul reminds us in Gal 1:15) has been embedded in our lives before we even took a breath.
There is no magic way to keep my eyes always on the Lord especially when difficulty is consuming my life. Yet I take comfort in knowing that even when my eyes are off of him, his are always on me. I appreciate how the psalmist ends with the truth that he will praise God with shouts of joy for his faithfulness. It’s a remembrance that no matter what I go through it is not the end and nor will it have the final say.
In whatever struggle you face today in your life or in your family, rest securely in the promise that you are not alone: God walks with you. Nothing can separate you from the love of our faithful God (Romans 8) who is with us to the very end of the age (Matt 28). In his faithful presence pain does not get the final word. Where God dwells there is hope.