August 19, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
Psalm 44:23-24 comes in the context of an extended lament, in which the psalmist accuses God of mistreating his people, even though they have not broken his covenant (44:17). The lament concludes with this gripping verse: “Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (v. 22).
Gracious God, how I thank you for the freedom you give me to be honest with you, to hold nothing back!
In desperation, the psalmist cries out to God as if he were sleeping: ” Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself!” (44:23). I love the honesty of this cry. It hasn’t been cleaned up theologically. It’s bold, brash, and one might almost say, inappropriate. Who would assume to speak to God in this way? Only one who had confidence in God’s ability to hear with grace. Only one whose relationship with God was intimate enough to risk such openhearted prayer. Only one who felt safe revealing the depths of his or her heart to the Lord.
If you’ve walked with the Lord for some time, you have no doubt experienced times of desperation in your relationship with him. You have known moments when it seems as if God is sleeping. You have felt as if God was ignoring your suffering.
I remember a time when my son, Nathan, was an infant. He was terribly sick, with a fever over 105 degrees. I was up with him for most of the night, trying to let my wife get some rest. Nathan spent most of that night crying in agony. I felt consumed by worry for him, not to mention exhausted from lack of sleep. I had been praying on and off for hours. Finally, at about four in the morning, I yelled at God through my tears. I told him I would never let someone I love go through this. I said things to God that I would never put in writing. They were too terrible, too personal, too much like what we read in the Psalms.
Now, as I look back on that moment, I marvel at the freedom I felt to tell the Lord exactly what was on my heart. He didn’t consume me with holy fire or throw me into the pit. Rather, he used that experience to reassure me that I can open my heart to him, confident in his mercy.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever cried out to God in the mode of Psalm 44? When? What happened?
What gives you confidence to be honest with God?
Are there some things you need to say to God today, but have been holding back out of fear?
Gracious God, today as I reflect upon this psalm, I am not in a place of desperation. But I remember times when I cried out to you as if you were asleep and ignoring me. How I thank you for the freedom you give me to be honest with you, to hold nothing back. How gracious you are, King of kings, to let me speak my mind and share my heart with you. What a privilege this is, Lord, what a privilege!
Help me, dear Lord, to trust you enough to pray with boldness. May I always have the freedom to open my heart to you, no matter what. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: God’s presence in the midst of disaster (Psalm 46)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.