This Sunday we sang a new hymn for us, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” written by George Matheson on the evening of sister’s marriage as his whole family went to her wedding and had left him alone. Years earlier Matheson had been engaged until his fiancé learned that he was going blind and there was nothing the doctors could do. She told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. Indeed Matheson did go blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who took care of him for years, but now she was getting married and would be leaving her brother in order to establish her own home.
Amidst fears of who would care for him in his blindness, mixed with the fresh reminder of his own heartbreak brought about by his sister’s marriage – in the midst of intense sadness – the Lord gave Matheson this hymn – written, he says, in 5 minutes!
Looking back over his life, he once wrote that his was “an obstructed life, a circumscribed life… but a life of quenchless hopefulness, a life which has beaten persistently against the cage of circumstance, and which even at the time of abandoned work has said not “Good night” but “Good morning.” How could he maintain quenchless hopefulness in the midst of such circumstances and trials? His hymn gives us a clue: “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain.” The rainbow image is not for him, the quintessential, silver lining whenever clouds appear in the blue,” but it is a picture of the Lord’s commitment and promise, which appears when the skies are darkening and threaten to open up and flood the world again in judgment.
This is also David’s experience in Psalm 4. In his distress he calls out to God (v. 1). He is forsaken and shamed by the people of the world who are asking, “Who will show us any good?” (v.6). There are many faithless people who, even when they look into religion, seek not God, but what they can get out of it. There is a seductive lure of a religion built upon such pragmatism. Such a religion becomes a means of manipulating the gods to fulfill my needs, as the foundational purpose of God’s covenant – to know God – gets lost in the rush for personal satisfaction. Like George Matheson, David, and before him Job held on to God, not because of any benefit they received – in Job’s case, he lost everything! They find in God their delight and joy, simply because He is God and He has chosen to enter into a covenant with them (v.3).
As all of the politicians, the media, commercials, athletics and even much of the church bombard your senses with the ideology that you are at the center of your universe, may you as the Psalmist take your eyes off of yourself and your benefits (your corn and wine v. 7) and place them knowing Christ. Doing so will not change your pain into pleasure, nor will it fill your rumbling stomach. Knowing Christ does not mean that all that is wrong in your life will go away, nor does it, as the quaint but trivial saying goes, make your lemons into lemonade. But knowing Christ brings about a gladness and a rightness about your life that will not be eradicated by pain or want or trial or tribulation. Ours in not some kind or warped, masochistic faith that rejoices over pain and suffering, but one that faces the reality of pain with a steadfast confidence that, “though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
As I lay me down to sleep,
My soul, I trust the Lord to keep,
Though pain await me when I wake,
I know my suffering He will take.