Pastor Kent Hobi: What Should I Do When I Do Right and God Does Not Bless?

Every true worshiper feels this tension at some point: We are doing the right thing as best we can, yet instead of blessing us, God allows difficult and even harmful things into our lives. Why does God allow bad things to happen to people who are trying to be faithful? God's people have struggled with this question through the ages. The book of Job and Psalm 44 are two examples of wrestling with the circumstances God has allowed.

What can possibly settle our hearts when God does not act as we expect? This question cannot be worked out in academic theological discussion. The only safe place to approach it is humbly bowed before God in prayer.


Our First Response: Worship

The first response of the writer of Psalm 44 is to worship. We must realize that we do not have all the answers. God gives us lots of information in His Word, but He does not offer explanations for every situation.

Comfort ultimately comes from the truth that God runs the universe, not me. He is much smarter than I am, and that is why things are the way they are. I may never know the reason, but God does. The true worshiper learns to rest in this truth.

In prayer, the Psalmist first rehearses the positive past (verses 1-8). He humbly reminds God of His faithful proactive activity in the distant past. God's faithfulness has built up the expectation and witness that obedience is rewarded with blessing. He confesses his absolute dependence on God in the immediate past, and on this note he pauses.

The Psalmist next dwells on the puzzling present (verses 9-21). The tension is high as he looks at the state of the nation of Israel. It is easier to understand when humans cause hardship, because they are flawed. But God is not! He is completely in control, and His character is completely good. There is no tension relief valve when we ask how He can allow such things.

The Psalmist wonders if God was distracted. Readers may question whether things were really as bad as they sound. But the events are objective and measurable reality – the nation is being ridiculed, soldiers have died, and the people are poor.

Maybe God's people had been disobedient and were being punished. The Psalmist realizes that no, in fact, they were not harboring sin, or God would have told them. They were doing right.

Then what resolution is possible? One could fall into fatalism, believing that we are just pawns in God's almighty hands. One could believe that God doesn't really care for the details of our lives. But there is a more satisfying and truthful resolution available to the true worshiper.

The Psalmist lastly turns to the forget-me-not future (verses 22-26). He stays in an attitude of prayer and chooses to believe that God is much smarter than he is. This conviction can bring us true joy and skill in living.

In Psalm 44, no reason is given for the nation's trouble. God does not allow us to be His judge, but simply says, "Continue to worship Me." Our consternation is an issue of timing. God runs the universe on His own timetable, beyond our comprehension.

The New Testament believer has several advantages over the Old Testament saint when dealing with the tension of difficult circumstances. We are part of the body of Christ, tasked to love and help each other grow. We have spiritual disciplines to help us grow in godliness. On this side of the resurrection, we have the clear conviction that this life is not all there is. We are focused on the future reign of Christ when He will make everything right.

There are two truths that a worshiper turns to in order to resolve the tension.

"For the Sake of Your Name"

The Psalmist is better equipped to deal with his circumstances when he arrives at a whole different perspective on his existence. True worshipers realize with Paul that "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). We exist for the sake of His name – He does not exist for the sake of ours. Paul may have experienced the most trouble of any person in the Bible, yet he was still able to have this attitude. God does not fill our lives with hardship; He has given us all things to enjoy, but that can never be the basis of our worship or stability.

Christ himself demonstrated the right attitude in the face of hardship: He was submitted to His Father and focused on His spiritual mission (Matthew 5:10-11, John 15:20). His followers must do the same.

Unfailing Lovingkindness

The Psalmist ends by considering the love of God. We can be certain of His loyal love no matter what happens. Romans 8 gives a New Testament commentary on Psalm 44, and it is here that we must train our mind, will, and emotions to dwell when we're wrestling.

Comfort comes when we accept that our lives are for the sake of His name, and our circumstances are under-girded by God's unfailing love.

Application Points

  • Believer, are you going through a difficult time through no fault of your own? Does the reality of God's greatness only compound the tension? God wants you to know the anchor of His unfailing love and the reality of living for the sake of His name. Run to these truths and rehearse them regularly. Dwell in passages like Romans 8.
  • Unbeliever, know that God runs the universe with His unfailing love. The highest expression of that love is sending His only son Jesus Christ to die for your sins! Will you confess, believe, and commit yourself to Him?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Philippians 3:12-14 – Paul's mind was set on the future.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 – The glorious agony of the Christian life.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 – Effective comforters have God-adjusted thinking. They have grown in their ability to see with the eyes of faith and can help others develop the same mindset.
  • Psalm 19 – Evidences of God's unfailing love.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Thy Way, Not Mine, O Lord"

Thy way, not mine, O Lord, however dark it be:
Lead me by Thine own hand; choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough, it will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads right onward to Thy Rest.

I dare not choose my lot; I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God, so shall I walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it with joy or sorrow fill.
As best to Thee may seem, choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends, my sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me, my poverty or wealth.
Not mine, not mine the choice in things both great and small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength, my wisdom, and my all.