Chrysostom was no stranger to social distancing. Both at will and as an executive order from an angry Roman empress, John spent much time in isolation from others. How did this early church father respond to such difficult duress? He said:
“What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord’s. Poverty I do not fear; riches I do not sigh for; and from death I do not shrink.”
In trying times, what do you fear? King David found himself amid many difficult, challenging and trying times. In fact, he penned the circumstances and emotions of those moments in a hymn book entitled Psalms. How did David respond to his circumstances and challenges? Psalm 11 gives us a window into David's theology of trials.
The Unseen God
The words in Psalm 11 begin like two children arguing on the playground. The subject of their dispute is the current state of distress that David finds himself in. The song writer is being advised to: “Flee like a bird to your mountain...” Psalm 11:1
Did you notice what is subtly said behind that large question? “Where is God?” David's anonymous dialoguer while under pressure, shouts, “He is not here.” Save yourself! But notice David’s response: “In the Lord I take refuge.”
My Refuge Is the Lord
A refuge is a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. When trouble comes or when trials arise, we have the choice to either social distance our soul from God or to take shelter in the Lord.
I do not want to knock "Fred's" theological questioning because he is wrestling with a temptation that we all face. Will we worship, rest and trust in the unseen God? What will we do when God is invisible, but our trials are visible? The answer lies in David’s soul. He refuses to allow his soul to isolate itself from its maker.
Augustine said, "...our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee." David knows that refusing to take shelter in the unseen God is like salt water to the parched drinker.
The Seeing God
Faithless Fred says, “Where is God?” David responds with boldness saying, “I know where God is. God is in his holy temple, sitting on his throne and watching the world." Psalm 11:4 (paraphrased)
Though we cannot see God in His entirety, God can see us. Like a one-way mirror, God looks at the world and sees the action behind the mirror. Where is God? He is not aloof. He is not absent. He is right where He has always been. He is watching, reigning, and sitting on His throne. He is the creator of the universe and caretaker of the world, not leaving it to fend for ourselves. He is the sovereign ruler of the earth. He is active in our lives. He is testing humankind, and his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
I want you to notice something here. In the first three verses, there is a charge against God. God is not seen, and therefore, God is not to be trusted.
David responds by saying, “Though our God may be unseen, our God is still a God who sees, and He is to be trusted. He is the seeing God. He sees humankind, and nothing escapes His attention.” He saw Hagar, a victim of unjust abuse. He came to her and blessed her with a child, and she gave this name to the Lord. “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Gen 16:13
God saw Hagar and God sees you in your trials, temptations, struggles and failures. He is not aloof but watching and waiting to intervene at the right time and in the right way according to His will. Where is God? He is right where he has always been and will always be until Christ returns to bring us home.