I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (NIV)
Isn’t it wonderful when God steps in and rescues us from sickness or disaster, or adversity? We rightly want to testify to God, as the Psalmist does. Look at what God has done! Isn’t he marvelous! True, there is weeping, but joy is really the last word. All very well. But what of those who aren’t rescued? Who stays sick? Who suffer and even die?
We may have heard Christians thank and praise God that they didn’t board that aircraft that crashed. That they escaped the bushfires. That their illness was healed. It is right that they thank God and thank him publicly. But even as they do, there needs to be a recognition that their good news story is told against a more shadowy backdrop. What of others who did board the aircraft, who did perish in the flames, who did succumb to illness? I might be glad that God delivered me, but what of those others?
Of course, there will always be those who want to offer a snappy answer to that and suggest God’s judgement has fallen on the unfortunates and those who are saved are saved by some sort of merit. This flies in the face of grace and also the overall teaching of the Bible which suggests much suffering is beyond simple human explanation. The Psalmist isn’t boasting of his relative merits when he thanks God. He can both praise God for his deliverance and wonder at the fate of others.
The mere fact that others suffer misfortune must not stop us from praising God for the good things he has done for us. But all such praise is offered in the light of deeper mysteries. And we must never succumb to simplistic or triumphalistic expressions of praise whereby we suggest all is well because we are well. We praise and thank God for his goodness while being painfully aware that this same goodness seems starkly absent for so many others. We don’t blurt out answers, but rather embrace uncomfortable mystery.