“O Lord, please help me!” “I can’t do this without you, God!” “Take this pain away!” “Have mercy on me!” “Please make it stop!” Does any of this sound familiar? Have you uttered any of these desperate pleas to God in a time of great need?
When pain and suffering squeeze us, this is often what comes out. No one likes suffering and because we know God is good and in control, we turn to him for relief. We will even, at times, make deals with God out of an intense desire for escape: “God, if you will ________, I promise I will ________!” Sometimes God answers our cries the way we ask him to and he delivers us from our trial, and other times he sees fit to keep us in the suffering to grow our faith and our character.
In those times when God delivers you, how does your response to him before deliverance compare to your response after it? Psalm 34 is David’s response to an occasion when God chose to deliver him from certain death. In 1 Samuel 21:10-15, as David is fleeing from Saul, he finds himself in the land of Gath before Achish its king. The servants of Achish recognized David as the one of whom people had been singing, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands”, so they bring him to the king. Fearing death is imminent, David, instead of trusting God, quickly whips up a plan to get released. He begins to act like a crazy person, so that the king will in no way believe that the man standing before him is actually the David he’s heard of.
Even though David chose to take matters into his own hands in this situation, God still delivers David, and so in Psalm 34, David responds, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord” (vv. 1-2). He goes on for 22 verses, calling God’s people to praise the Almighty along with him and tells them how they can taste God’s goodness as he has.
I fear that our response after we experience God’s deliverance from trial is many times not the same as David’s. We persistently cry out to God in passionate despair for him to take the pain away, and when he does we throw up a quick “thank you” and it’s back to life as normal. Church, our “thank you’s” should be just as passionate as our “help me’s”. Although we act like it, relief from suffering is not the end goal in these situations. As with everything else in life, the goal is the glory of our great God. In order to think like this, we need to cultivate a heart that treasures God above comfort, and the only way to do this is to renew our minds with his word and pray for the Holy Spirit to chisel away sin’s deceitful influence.