Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Stepping Away
I cry aloud to God, that God may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints.
You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit:
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has God’s steadfast love ceased forever? Are God’s promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
1. Have you ever wondered why it seems that God doesn’t regularly intervene directly to fix problems—yours, your neighbor’s, or the world’s? How do you explain God’s apparent hands-off-ness to yourself?
2. Would you prefer God to control and order things for the good, or do you think we are better off with freedom, even if it often leads to suffering and trouble?
3. If you are a parent, can you relate to the comparison between God’s self-restraint and a parent’s decision to stand back and let a child find her way in the world? Does it ring true, or is it more complicated than that?
“I cry to God in my trouble, ‘God, come and help me!’
Will the Lord spurn me forever, and never again be favorable?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?” – Psalm 77:1, 8-9
It’s an age-old question: “Why don’t you come when I need you?” It’s also unanswerable. We can’t know why. We can only ponder and imagine.
I imagine that God lives with the same sense of things slipping away that a parent feels when a baby takes her first step. The first step toddlers take, after all, is a step away. After that, they keep going. Sooner or later, you give them permission to go. But they’ll go anyway, with or without it. And chances are they’ll grow up to be what you never wanted them to be, eventually suffering all the calamities you worked so hard to spare them.
At some point, most parents stand back and let it happen. They realize there’s a mysterious nobility in this process, a dignity hard to describe, and it’s best to stay out of it. The wise parent does. So does God.
Which is awfully difficult to stomach at times, because so much suffering happens in that hands-off space. We love freedom until it starts to hurt. Then we want to return the gift. We ask God to swoop in and control things, sweep the world clear of obstacles, fix what we break. But out of respect, for our good, there are things God will not control.
It’s exhilarating, the reverence God has for us, the self-restraint. Exhilarating, and terribly hard. Terribly hard and absolutely necessary; for divine deference creates the space in which alone we can become human. The only space wherein, by the patience of grace, we may become good.
Thank you for staying out of it as I’m stepping away. Hard as it is, I’m grateful to be free.