Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We were made to think Eternally

"She prays to God most every night
And though she swears He doesn't listen
There's still a hope in her He might
She says I pray
But they fall on deaf ears
Am I supposed to take it on myself?
To get out of this place”

Do you ever feel that way? I know I have. So many times in our lives, we feel like God isn’t listening to us, or for that matter isn’t hearing a word we say, our prayers are like Dave Matthews has written here, “falling on deaf ears.” It’s not a fun place to be, but did you know that King David felt the same way at times? Check out his words in Psalm 109:1-3 “O God, whom I praise, don’t stand silent and aloof while the wicked slander me and tell lies about me. They are all around me with their hateful words, and they fight against me no reason.”

You see in this first part of Psalm 109 David feels like God is standing silent and aloof while he is struggling with people slandering his name as King. I think this is a normal part of the Christian life. I don’t pretend that I understand why God doesn’t appear to answer our prayers sometimes either. However, I will point out that sometimes God’s silence is His way of answering us. Perhaps the silence is His way of saying “no” to our request, or it could also mean ‘wait’ for a time. Despite all of these struggles that we have, God wants us to trust Him anyways, and that is a tough pill to swallow, but at the same time I find some relief in that fact.

In my own life, I’ve found that when God appears to be silent on a issue that I am bringing before Him, it is often that He is asking me to lay down what my desired outcome in the given situation, and fully submit to what He knows is best for me. King David also wrote about this subject in Psalm 5:3 “Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” I emphasize that last point where David writes ‘wait expectantly.’ You see we need to seek the Lord about our desires and needs, but then we need to wait on Him. God is sovereign (Psalm 68:20) and He does know what is best for us.

The chorus of “Grey Street,” the Dave Matthews Band song I am writing about and quoting from today, features these lines that bring up another point of interest about mankind:

There's an emptiness inside her
And she'd do anything to fill it in
But all the colors mix together
To grey, and it breaks her heart”

This concept of an emptiness inside that all human beings have has been written about by theologians and saints in the past. Saint Augustine, one of the early Church leaders first brought this topic up as the “God Shaped Hole” that every person has within their heart that nothing in this life will fill. The only person who can fill that hole is God. Augustine used Ecclesiastes 3:11 as one of his main arguing points for this concept and I think his argument is quite valid. Ecclesiastes 3:11 finds Solomon writing this: “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.” Think about that, God has planted the idea of eternity in the human heart! That means that every person has been designed by God to think in terms of living forever! He has designed us to know deep down that we are incomplete without knowing what it is like to be loved by Him with a love that is unfailing (John 1:17, Psalm 36:7). So our lead character in Matthews’ song has an emptiness inside her that she herself can’t fill in, because she is probably not a believer. She prays to God but she doesn’t feel He listens, and while I have already talked about how we as Believers can and at times do feel that way, I think it is probably even more normal for a person who hasn’t put their Faith in Jesus for the redemption of their sins and been born again to feel this way.

You see a person who hasn’t been redeemed through Christ’s blood has an image before God that is marred by sin. If they fail to acknowledge this fact and cry out to Christ for forgiveness, there is a barrier between God and that person. In Isaiah 59:2 we are told that sin can cut us off from God. In Romans 7:24-25 Paul tells us that we are still sinful in nature, but through Jesus, and only Jesus, we can be free from that sin.

Therefore if we are sinful by nature and sin cuts us off from God, it would only make sense that people who are not Christians would not only feel a emptiness inside due to the fact they haven’t asked Jesus into their heart, but also feel like their prayers aren’t being heard or answered. Dave Matthews has said this song was inspired by the life of poet Annie Sexton who suffered most of her life with bipolar disorder that ultimately lead her to commit suicide in 1974. Most her life was spent crying out for help, but as far as we know she never became a Christian. However, she was deeply aware of an emptiness inside of her, and it seems and she battled a depression because of her disorder, and that emptiness, almost her entire life.

It’s a sad story, which leads me to my final point. People that are battling depression and a sense of emptiness inside of them are just the people we as Christians need to be on the look out for. As our economy continues to be on the down and out, and unemployment rates continue to rise, people are going to become more and more aware of the void in their heart, and in many ways begin to develop what John Calvin would call the Sensus divinitatis which is Latin for “Sense of Divinity” which he taught meant all of humanity has a sense that there is a God in Heaven! When a person is at this point in their life, where they are feeling empty and yet a sense of God’s existence, is where I believe the Holy Spirit is at work beginning to lay the groundwork for bringing that person to Salvation. That is where we as people who are already Believers come in. We can be a guiding light to answer some of their questions about why they feel so empty and alone, and lead them to accepting that they are sinners and Jesus came to give them life and life abundantly (John 10:10). While it is ultimately God who I believe brings a person to the point of accepting Jesus, we as Believers can allow God to use us to be the human guide to bring another to Him. Therefore my encouragement to all of us today as the Church is to keep our eyes, minds, and hearts open for the lost in our community. We never know when God is going to bring another person to His Son, and He desires all of us to have a hand in accomplishing His desire to redeem someone’s heart!

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