I was reading a magazine article the other day entitled “Comfort for When You Cannot Sleep.” In it Martin Luther is quoted as saying:
“God plays with His child to discipline and strengthen his faith just as a godly parent takes from his son an apple with which the boy was delighted, not that he should flee from his father or turn away form him but that he should rather be incited to embrace his father all the more.”
The author states that “God never plays with people like a cat plays with a mouse. Rather, Luther explains, God “plays games” with the children whom He loves in order to test and strengthen them.”
“…according to the example of Jacob, God at times is accustomed to play with His saints, and, as far as He Himself is concerned, with quite childish playing…it is excellent and very salutary exercise and perfect instruction, and this is blessed with a very happy end, namely that one learns ‘what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God’ (Romans 12:2)” (Luther’s works, vol. 6. pp. 120-131).
The author goes on to give further encouraging advice from Luther:
“If God did not love you so exceedingly, he would not “play’ with you in this manner; that is, He would not delay His promise and help and turn it into its opposite. These are the surest signs of a heart that is fatherly and burns with love for you. Thus a father according to the flesh who loves his son ‘plays’ with him and promises a small present, but he defers and pretends that he will refuse to do what he has promised. He does this because he loves his son very much and wants to give richly, provided that his son perseveres…and overcomes the delay. In this way God ‘plays’ with us too.” -(Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 4. p. 326).
In this morning’s devotion I read the psalmist’s struggle with this very thing.
Loudly, I cried to God. Loudly, I cried to God so that he would open his ears to [hear] me. On the day I was in trouble, I went to the Lord for help. At night I stretched out my hands in prayer without growing tired. Yet, my soul refused to be comforted. I sigh as I remember God. I begin to lose hope as I think about him.
(You keep my eyelids open.) I am so upset that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years long ago. I remember my song in the night and reflect [on it]. My spirit searches [for an answer]: Will the Lord reject [me] for all time? Will he ever accept me? Has his mercy come to an end forever? Has his promise been canceled throughout every generation? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he locked up his compassion because of his anger?
Then I said, “It makes me feel sick that the power of the Most High is no longer the same.” Psalm 77:1-10
As I meditated on the above scripture the following words came to mind: “Our failure to see the glory of the Lord in the immediacy of our need is purposely orchestrated so that we may see and partake in a future greater glory.”
What if God showed himself to us at every turn? Would we in our human sinful weakness not become easily tired of His glory and take him for granted? Would he – his presence – not become as common to us as the dirt we tread daily underfoot?
I will remember the deeds of the LORD. I will remember your ancient miracles. I will reflect on all your actions and think about what you have done. O God, your ways are holy! What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles. You have made your strength known among the nations. With your might you have defended your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah The water saw you, O God. The water saw you and shook. Even the depths of the sea trembled. The clouds poured out water. The sky thundered. Even your arrows flashed in every direction. The sound of your thunder rumbled in the sky. Streaks of lightning lit up the world. The earth trembled and shook. Your road went through the sea. Your path went through raging water, but your footprints could not be seen. Psalm 77:11-19
God is patient, for he works throughout the entirety of time, from the beginning to its end. We only see an infinitesimal fraction in our finite view. That is why it is so hard sometimes to glimpse God working his miracles. His immortal works are larger than our mortal sight…our vaporous lifetime. That is why it is sometimes so hard to see him…his hand…at work.
Smoke The vapor gets in our eyes.
Only God can fully see His own work clearly.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,” declares the LORD. “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
He is at work. We are just too puny of a piece of dust of man to see it.
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17
The Hidden Face of God by Michael Card
Once there was a soul so full of shadows
That hopelessness was all that he could see;
So in the storm of suffering he cried out
And clung to the God he still believed.
The compassion of his friends had all forsaken,
The passion of his wife had disappeared,
All the looks on their faces had failed him,
Now the only visage left him was the face that he most feared.
All he ever wanted, all he could ever need,
All his questions answered so he could still believe;
To pierce the holiest shadow and look behind the facade,
To see the wordless answer of the hidden face of God.
On and on the struggle raged between them
So that neither one would let the other go;
The pleas of his praise and prayers of his rage
Had bound him in a battle with a God he didn’t know.
Finally, at last, he was exhausted.
Though beaten up and bloody, he was glad;
He saw the only hope that he had left was
The only hope that he had ever had.
As he remembered all the pain of all that he had lost,
On all his honest hopeless ennui,
He whispered that before his ears had heard but
Now at last his eyes could really see.
All I ever wanted, all I could ever need,
Not a single question answered, so now I can believe
He pierced the holiest shadow, stepped from behind the facade,
Now I know the only answer is the hidden face of God.
Father, on those days when you hide yourself from our sight, give us your Holy Spirit, power, and strength to seek you. I would rather find you and struggle with you in the night than to not struggle at all. A seed hidden in the dark dirt must struggle to seek and burst into the light. Thank you that you have promised that you are Omnipresent, and that you have given us a very visible evidence of your presence among us…your Holy Bible. In Jesus name, Amen.