The Underlying Assumption in Questioning God (Meditation on Psalm 119:83-84)

For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes. How long must your servant endure?  When will you judge those who persecute me?

Hardened, shriveled, shrunken and charred – that’s what the smoke of a fire produces.  The refiner’s fire can get pretty hot, but what a glorious product it promises.  How is the refiner’s fire working on you this year?  Do you feel like a shriveled-up raisin lately, always under the heat of the sun?  You may be thinking the same thing that the Psalmist is thinking in verse 84: How long must I endure this?  If so, glorify God, because there’s a beautiful underlying assumption in that question that I want to draw your attention to – God is absolutely and unquestionably in control of every aspect of your life.  Every hardship, pain, sickness or persecution is producing in you something of eternal significance, not like the temporary skin that your soul dwells in for this life…this pain is producing true life!  How do we know this?  In Romans 7 we read that our sinful flesh is only capable of producing one thing, death.  In fact, we read in Romans 6 that the wages that the slave master “sin” pays with, is death…eternal death is the currency that our sinful works earn under the law of sin and death!  More incredibly, we read that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ! The refiner’s fire sanctifies us, it purifies us in preparation for that great wedding feast where ultimately, we’ll be presented as a spotless bride.  In fact, “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Now, that’s an incredibly powerful statement! If you’ve coasted through this year without any pain, maybe that’s a wonderful thing, but if you’ve lacked true spiritual growth, perhaps a meaningful prayer to consider this new year is “Lord, produce in me an eternal weight of glory…whatever it takes.”

On this beautiful winter day, I’m venturing a guess that the furthest thing from your mind is remembering to put on sunscreen.  If you’re like me, you may not think of it, even when you should in the dead of summer. Earlier this year, I was reminded the hard way how important it is to be disciplined in protecting your skin from the intense heat and light of the sun.  Fifteen stitches, a decent amount of pain, and a lengthy scar across my bicep will remind me for the rest of my life; that scar also reminds me of the life-saving power that comes with the surgeon’s scalpel.  If you’re in the midst of trials, pain, temptations, or persecution, remember God’s statutes.  Remember that any trial on this earth is trivial compared to an eternity separated from God in hell.  Like the scar on my arm, the pain is light, momentary, and necessary.  Praise God for the pain!  Rest in His Word, in His promises, in His Son, Jesus Christ – the hardship is light and momentary in the light of eternity, and it’s producing in you an eternal weight of glory!

Brandon Harvath