In March 2020, the church I work for went entirely virtual, the international women’s organization I serve with cancelled the workshops I was preparing to lead in the Middle East, my husband’s coffee shop had to stop serving customers indoors and experienced significant financial loss. My four kids abruptly stopped going to school and started learning online, completely isolated from their schools and communities. Add to these personal struggles the national pain of racial injustice and inequitable suffering in certain communities because of the pandemic, and many days, it all felt like too much to bear. I found myself losing hope. How can I trust God when things look like they do right now? Is He actually trustworthy when it seems like what is happening now is the opposite of what He promised?
We see a similar struggle expressed in Psalm 89. The author, Ethan the Ezrahite, is lamenting his fear that the promise God made to David to keep a ruler on the throne may not actually be fulfilled. I believe the heart of Ethan’s struggle is this: Is God still trustworthy when things don’t look like they’re supposed to?
The way Ethan handles this question is by first declaring his intention to continue praising God. Then, he reflects on God’s sovereign rule, specifically around God as Creator. I can picture Ethan pinching His eyes shut, fists clenched, wrestling with what he knows is true of Yahweh, the God of Israel, even when he doesn’t feel it or see it. He recalls that Yahweh is incomparable, greatly to be feared, mighty, faithful.
Yahweh is strong and powerful and a protector; and then Ethan writes these words: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (89:14). And as he reflects on these truths, Ethan’s fists release, his pinched eyes relax, and he exhales. Yes Lord, you are. I know that I can trust a God who rules righteously and justly, in steadfast love and faithfulness. I remember now that God is right and true, and He does all in love. A God like this can be trusted, no matter the circumstances.
We also can echo this prayer, affirming our trust in God because of His just and loving rule, and as believers in the resurrected Christ, this prayer can take on new meaning as well. Christ is the perfect picture of righteousness, justice, and the presence of steadfast love and faithfulness in all circumstances. Jesus sums up God’s throne room of righteousness and justice with this simple command from Luke 10 known as the Great Commandment, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
To Him, it looked like sacrificing His life and taking on Himself the full punishment for our sin in order that we may be saved. His rule with justice and love meant considering others better than Himself and living a life of service. As we lament and resolve to trust God alongside Ethan, can we also lay down our own ambitions and count others as more significant than ourselves in the same way Christ did?
Brothers and sisters, as you face circumstances that cause you to question God’s trustworthiness (and you will), remember that you are in good company. Join in with Ethan the Ezrahite and remember that God’s throne is founded on righteousness and justice, and that love and faithfulness are shown in all He does. Imitate Christ in modeling this upside-down way of leadership and lay down your lives for the sake of others.
In light of the reconciliation we are seeking around us, let’s pray like Ethan and love like Jesus. Make space to listen to those who are hurting in your community and then take action to see those on the margins be afforded the same value and dignity that the privileged are given. Use your influence at home, at work, at school, and in your neighborhood to elevate and honor all people. Let your life cast kingdom vision by how you live, who you call friends, and where you spend your time and money.
Loving justice should start with Christians, and we can trust it will prevail because our God is faithful.