When a tragedy like the tsunami in Japan takes place, we all struggle to explain it. Age-old questions around the existence of an all-good, all-powerful God resurface and plague believer and unbeliever alike. Such a God’s existence is seemingly required to give meaning and purpose to our lives. So, we want God. But such tragedy confronts us with the sincere question of whether that God is really good. Sufferers and bystanders alike often emerge from adversity with a negative answer to that question.
But what hope can there be without God or, worse, with a God who truly is not good?
Psalm 30 doesn’t deal directly with this question (others psalms do), but it does give hope to those in the midst of suffering. The psalmist asserts that all our adversity is a “night” that must be followed by morning. Suffering is real, but always temporary. God has seen to that.
The psalmist testifies to God’s goodness in the midst of suffering at the start of the psalm. He “extols” the Lord because he has not let his enemies triumph (30:1). God has healed him (30:2). He has delivered him from the grave, from Sheol (30:3). The psalmist can testify to the momentary nature of suffering in his own past, and so, in the midst of his present affliction, he tells other people, “Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name” (30:4). Maybe he knows that his suffering will lead others to question God’s goodness.
The psalmist can sing God’s praises in the midst of hardship—and so can we—because he knows who God is and has seen God’s gracious work in the past. He can sing praise in a dark hour because the Lord has seen to it that dawn will arrive for his people: “his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (30:5).
We may be able to measure our trials and tribulations—we count the days, and juries award large sums of money for “pain and suffering.” But these can’t compare with the incalculable blessings of God’s grace. His favor lasts a lifetime.
Suffering calls us to prayer and faith, not despair or disbelief. There is no hope in disbelief. God alone can turn mourning to dancing (30:11). Only he can change a gravesite to a party. Only God could turn a cross into a throne.