1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me? 3 Consider me and answer, Lord my God. Restore brightness to my eyes; otherwise, I will sleep in death. 4 My enemy will say, “I have triumphed over him,” and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in your deliverance. 6 I will sing to the Lord because he has treated me generously.
As a response to the Enlightenment’s truth claims and its over-emphasis on so-called rationality, the church may have stumbled into a well-conceived trap. Let’s call it the Worldview Trap. The hope of the Enlightenment was that if we just believe the right precepts and know the right answers to all the hard questions, our paths will be made straight, and the truth will set us free to skillfully handle any crisis.
Enter the valid, yet debatably shallow, critique of the Worldview Trap from theologians and academic philosophers who counter that we aren’t, by nature, “thinking beings,” but rather that we are PRIMARILY “desiring beings.”
To be fair, neither belief requires the negation of the other. But I would like to argue a different theory, one that seems to correspond more closely to the messy and inconsistent Christian lives we live every day. We are not simply thinking or desiring beings, but both and more. We are creatures in conflict, mostly within ourselves: flesh vs. Spirit; head vs. heart; life vs. death. To say this another way, we are half-hearted and double-minded.
Augustine famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Paul confessed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
In the moments that inspired these words, neither Augustine nor Paul were reflecting thoughtfully. They were experiencing existential trauma. These were war correspondences. And the first rule of war is to acknowledge that you are at war.
Unfortunately, one of our main defenses against our internal struggles is avoidance. But avoidance, with its many faces, is just a prescription for more of the problem. Tragically, retreating from reality prevents us from encountering the one thing that is able to move us toward making sense of our existence: coming to the end of our Selves.
Before Augustine and before Paul, David experienced his own existential trauma described in Psalm 13. And it’s far from a picture of avoidance.
“How long?” David cries, not in doubt, but in acknowledgment that we are the question, NOT the answer. God is God and we are not. Our need is greater than anything we can comprehend, let alone heal ourselves. You can almost watch David shrink from “me, me, me” in the first stanza to God’s rightful increase in the last.
In this moment of lament, David shows us the great paradoxical truth: neither knowledge nor desire will save us. The only victory over internal conflict is surrender to the God of creation.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What does it take to get you to express helplessness about your situation?
- Do you find it easy to rejoice in the Lord’s salvation in difficult times?
- How do you lead others to do the same?
Pray for mission journey team leaders. Pray for wisdom, discernment, health and energy for those taking on this important and sometimes heavy role.