Political commentator and film critic Michael Medved once wrote that he saw two poisons in culture: pessimism about the future and ingratitude in the present. In the few years since he wrote those words, some would say there has been little reason to feel anything but a lack of hope for the future and ingratitude in the present.
While our world can present us with some discouraging scenarios, I think that God would have us look at life another way. The writer of Psalm 107 doesn’t deny the difficulties of life. He knew them personally, as there are indications the psalm was written shortly after the Jewish people returned from 70 years of captivity. The past was bleak and the present and future looked like more of the same. The returning exiles looked around and saw a desolate homeland.
The writer doesn’t deny that they were clearly going through hard times. Using a variety of poetic images he points out that life is often like a desert (107:4-6), a prison (107:10-12) or a sick bed (107:17-18). In such times life seems wasted, dry, confining, barren and without purpose. Needs remain unmet and joy ebbs away. Such hard times are real!
Yet God still has a purpose in such times and encourages us to adopt another perspective. Part of his purpose is to get us to the point where we cry out to him (107:6, 13, 19) in our hard times. During the tough times we come to the end of our own resources and become desperate for help and strength from God. Then when we cry out we find that God has ways of intervening. He delivers us, leads us in a new way, satisfies our longings and heals our hearts (107:7-9, 13-14, 19-20).
God can and does intervene in such ways, first of all, because he is able to do so. His power knows no limits. But there is also a second driver in God’s work. He intervenes because his steadfast love endures forever (107:1)! We may go through hard and discouraging times, but God’s faithful love is always with us and always oversees our lives. Love that endures forever puts a stamp on the past, present and future. Followers of Christ, of all people, should not be the poison in our culture, but the antidote to that poison. We have every reason to reject pessimism about the future and ingratitude in the present. We know that God in Christ rules over all times!
-Pastor Tom Swanson